Since the 2019 inception of Swedish one man band Kvaen, the project and its founder Jacob Björnfot have made a serious impact upon the Extreme Metal scene with a powerful sound that lasts long in the memory. Using a blend of Black, Viking and Pagan Metal, Kvaen unleashed an amazing debut album entitled ‘The Funeral Pyre’ and then in 2022 a new album was unleashed; the highly enigmatic ‘The Great Below’ which Black Lion Records put out across all formats.
I’ve listened to ‘The Great Below’ a few times now in order to get my thoughts down accurately. A powerfully intense and flowing album right from the outset with surging guitar melodies mixed with a wonderfully smooth bass tone and a frantic, urgent drumming style. Its the vocals though that really do captivate me with their raw aggression and the very catchy and often rousing lyrical output that at times is just shouted out for the sheer hell of it. Opener ‘Cauldron of Plagues’ is a thoroughbred anthem of a track and ends with the howling of ‘Lead the way as I enter the kingdom of death’, whilst title track ‘The Great Below’ has an insanely riveting edge to the guitar melody. (And also features Jeff Loomis of Nevermore fame… a great addition for me as ‘Dead Heart In A Dead World’ is still one of my favourite albums)
Just when the roaring velocity of the album threatens to spill over into something inhuman, Kvaen pulls us right back down to earth with the claustrophobic and oppressively slowed down tones of ‘In Silence’; a crushing and harrowing demonstration of bleak guitar tones melded to a powerfully dominant drumming style, with hypnotic and wandering guitar melodies weaving their way throughout the track. other tracks such as ‘Damnations Jaw’ and ‘Sulphur Fire’ are mere bouts of technical excellence paired with out right savagery, simply for the hell of it.
A superb album is ‘The Great Below’; a remarkably upbeat and soaring opus of deep, melodic and atmospheric intensity mixed with a cohesive and unyielding line in savagery and technical excellence. Start to finish, this is a belting album!