Somehow I’ve never come across the work of Rickard Törnqvist’s solo brainchild Svartkonst before, despite the band being active for a little over a decade. But when I came across a couple of preview tracks off the new album ‘May the Night Fall’ it certainly piqued my interest enough to put it on my review list with a few exclamation marks, eagerly awaiting the impending release.
Going in purely based on the snippets I heard before, the latest Svartkonst album certainly hit me by surprise. While my initial notes mentioned something in the vein of old school Black metal, that statement quickly had to be amended while I listened through the third album several times. Yes, there is certainly a component of Black Metal in the music of Svartkonst, one decidedly influenced by the bands from the main creator’s home country of Sweden. Think of Dissection, Craft and Marduk, and the song ‘Endless Dark’ also feels like a word play on the latter bands’ debut album. Now you may think, isn’t the first Marduk album more of a Death Metal record? Funny enough that’s exactly where the comparison with Svartkonst’s musical formula makes even more sense. Because, indeed, a very large part of the sound of Svartkonst is based on Swedish Death Metal, rolling and grooving with a typical HM-2 pedal buzzsaw guitar sound.
What these two main influences combine to is a sound that is heavy and chugging, with D-beat drums representing the Death Metal heritage, while the sharper melodies and vocals lean more towards the Blackened edge of the spectrum. On paper that sounds great, but it does make the album a little bit of a rollercoaster. A song like ‘Haunt Me’ is more strictly Death Metal, which is then followed by the Black Metal oriented ‘Breath of Satan’. Going on to the grooving rhythms of the “Motörhead-with-an-HM-2” song ‘Straight to the Grave’ to “what-if-Sargeist-came-from-Sweden” of ‘Endless Dark’, the styles in music tend to vary quite a bit from one track to the other. While the riffs are catchy, the vocals solid and I like the apparent tribute to Dissection in ‘Concrete and Steel’, the alternation between Black and Death Metal makes the music somewhat incoherent and at times a bit stale. Sometimes the blend works well, such as in ‘Crooked Horns’ and the title track, but other times the difference between tracks is a bit too substantial and the song progression too basic.
Like all the previous albums, ‘May the Night Fall’ certainly ticks a lot of the boxes with the thick HM-2 guitar sound with Swedish melodies and snarling vocals, and I do believe Rickard Törnqvist has a knack for writing a good riff. And if you’re standing in front of your record collection and have a distinctly Swedish craving but simply can’t decide whether to go for Death or Black Metal, you might as well go for both with Svartkonst instead. While on paper a marriage of 90’s Swedish Death Metal and Black Metal sounds appealing, in my opinion the outcome isn’t at all better than the sum of all the parts, but rather a bit like neither here nor there. Which is a shame.