The midnight hour is one that Rafn the man behind Hermodr is at his most fevered and working up a storm in his musical laboratory. Well that’s the way I look at it as he can’t have enough hours in the day to do everything he does musically. Since I reviewed his last album Hädanfärd in 2017 he has only gone and released 4 EP’s and 2 compilation albums and then there’s the matter of several other bands such as Deadlife and Mist that he is busy with and naturally doing everything for. This isolationist black metal musician has the benefits of being able to work alone without any outside interference but as long as they have someone willing to release their material they can certainly be a bit on the prolific side. The isolated feel definitely spreads to his music too and I described the last album as being all about the great outdoors and places untouched by the modern world. That’s very much the feeling that is evoked here too on an album that is dedicated to cold frozen nights at the witching hour, no doubt partaken in a cabin in the woods penetrated only by the howls of the wolves foraging for food.
This is described as a ‘Frozen Paradise’ in the first number and its cold caress is quick to smother in a cloak of freezing hyperthermia. This is atmospheric and on the whole (no pun intended) very chilled stuff. The music is in no rush, the song stretching to over 10 minutes and the album a near hour. Its music is beautiful and full of treasure as it sparkles slowly and melodically and glistens like ice coating everything in frozen layers. Vocals are haunting craggy cries as windswept as the environment but full of mourning rather than danger and threat. You instantly feel that you have wandered into an inhospitable graveyard of the night and one you will be lucky to escape from as it is a place that man should not tread but to die in its arms would be quite lovely as the children of the night, what sweet music…..
It’s music for the dreamers and the thinkers. Those who want simplicity in the repetitive gentle melodies. Those who are looking for anger and savagery will not find it here on the whole and may find the plodding nature too lacking in motion but for those who are happy to be gently urged along by its classicist roots and diaphanous keyboard pulses it is a gorgeous place to find oneself. The title track has a cold guitar riff that is guaranteed to make you shiver in front of the warmest fire, it has a bit of a Halloween feel about it ala John Carpenter and as the keyboard tinkles you can’t help but wonder what is stalking outside and making those hideous guttural and inhuman sounds. Perhaps though Rafn has some warmth and companionship for the long night as some feminine charm pervades the ‘Full Moon Night’ and adds an even more enchanting demeanour to the music and his haunting cries. It would appear that her name is Helga and she “found her own voice in the forests of Dalarna stuck with a guitar in a cabin that led her to write songs. Her dominant theme centres on nature, life experiences and introspection,” perfect match then and a lovely voice. Whether she sticks around though remains to be seen and we are left with “The Lonely Old Man” the call of the woods, the wilds and indeed the wolves.
If you love the naturistic side of black metal then Hermodr is an artist well worth checking out and with over 35 releases to explore there’s plenty for long, lonely, cold winter nights. He has even released a one track ode to the beast Rovdjur following on from this and I doubt there’s much including nature itself that can stop Rafn on his on-going quest.
(7.5/10 Pete Woods)