I sadly didn’t hear the debut by Sognametal band Mistur. I say sadly because as noted by the live review of their recent appearance at Inferno this collection of past and present members of Vreid, Windir, Kampfar, Cor Scorpii and Emancer formed around founders Espen Bakketeig and Andre Raunehaug (keyboards and guitar respectively) really are a class act. Completed by Stien Bakketeig (guitars), Oliver Øien (vocals), Bjarte Breilid (bass) and drummer Tomas Myklebust they have swirled together a traditional black metal sound with the hint of the symphonic and a touch of the progressive. Their sound is harsh and driven, clashing guitar and icy howled vocals balanced by a sweep of the storm that brings to mind the edges of Emperor, Borknagar and Winterfylleth with an often heavily percussive sound and great melodic lead breaks. Viking themed and epic in sound and scope, with great use of clean backing vocals, In Memorium is just so striking and so assured.
Opener ‘Downfall’ initially starts a little predictably; all carefully played keys and the opening howl taking your head off but the combination of keyboards and the excellent voice and the lilting clean vocals suddenly remind you of early Borknagar with the curious rhythm and progressive bounce. It’s a fine scene setter for the grim, cold pagan ways of ‘Distant Peaks’ and its Winterfylleth feel to the riff alongside a sharper vocal sound and the delicately placed keyboards always present but never overpowering, twisting into a storm akin to those that Emperor once conjured. ‘Firstborn Son’ stands alongside it with a more grim stamp to the sound, another fine song.
Take a listen to ‘Matriarch’s Lament’ just for an example of the talent here though; eight minutes of beautiful, progressive construction. From harsh violence seamlessly moving into progressive and keyboard laced elements and a haunting closing section that blends clean, rising vocals, harsh cries and a superbly fluid guitar solo. It kind of leaves you breathless. A top drawer composition that leads perfectly into ‘The Sight’, a pretty full on metal attack with an almost NWOBHM feel in places and bristling with excellent and energetic guitars. These guys even know how to pace an album it appears. ‘Tears Of Remembrance’ closes everything again in huge, glorious mythic style with an expensive sound and such a delicate and complex arrangement underlying the force that again early Borknagar is a fine reference but only a reference.
I’ve had my Viking head pretty firmly in place since a trip to Iceland but just when you think a scene is oversaturated or coasting, along come Mistur with nothing more innovative than an album chock full of memorable and invigorating hymns, the enthusiasm of teenagers and the passion of devotees. You can’t ask for more really.
Epic, progressive, evocative. Class. Get it.