It’s been a decade since last album ‘Till makabert väsen’ from Sweden’s Bergraven. This shouldn’t be too great a surprise though. The band members are all involved in Stilla as well as individually other acts such as Lik, Deranged, De Arma and Infernal Hellfire and one listen to the complexities of ‘Det Framlidna Minnet’ clearly shows the intricacies and work that has gone into it. This is music that you really need to soak up over repeated listens, it is impeccably crafted and not designed for a casual listener to dip in and out of in the slightest. The mountain black metal act are very much dwelling on the weird side-lines of the genre and have been doing so since 2002. I first encountered them on their second album Dödsvisioner back in 2007 and look upon that fondly as a near masterpiece of avant-garde strangeness with its hypnotic skewed musical take on things and hugely memorable melodies. Speaking of memories it is these along with how they can become “corrupted” and “haunt their hosts with regret and despair,” which is the central premise of this album. As one track is translated to ‘memory melancholy’ the question that is posed is how we dwell on our internal thought process and look back at certain points in our life. I guess with the advent of age things do become blurred and those unfortunate enough to be afflicted by dementia in the latter stages of existence have very much tasted any described corruption. Heavy stuff but then again this is not unexpected. The music is hardly easy to describe either.
An instrumental ‘memory gift’ starts this 55 minute journey and it is already strange and the stuff of dreams and nightmares of the mind. If a certain jazz sensibility begins to invade your psyche do not panic. The pitter-pattering drums and sense of disconnection is there as we trickle slowly into ‘Alt’ wondering where this is going to lead. Background screams ring out, a dizzying riff unpeels and a belched grunt sees vocals growling out around it sounding deranged and full of madness. Firing out fragments of everything conceivable this is at first all over the place yet it makes sense too as it is a painstakingly constructed melange of pieces that all connect into place like a jigsaw puzzle. I guess some may find it overly technical and it is in a near hallucinatory fashion that leaves you picking up the random pieces as things develop. Lovers of the weird and acts such as Ved Buens Ende, Fleurety and Virus will happily let their head noodle away with the painters of these musical images as they play around with the very senses in your head. They mix it all up with a variety of instruments too and during this therapy session you will encounter what sounds like a clarinet a saxophone, xylophone and piano perfectly placed within the mix. Pace constantly is in shift too from mellow acoustic parts with harmonic clean vocals to stumbling lurches and blazes of blackened speed and gravid yells. The aforementioned haunting is there and lurking amidst the otherwise confusing template. For example the maudlin central guitar melody on a song such as ‘Den följsamma plågan’ will challenge your thoughts as to whether it is familiar or not, once heard it certainly won’t be shifted.
One can only imagine just how personal an album this is to Pär Stille leading him to construct this dense and challenging album, it strikes as incredibly so in a lot of respects. To some it is just going to be too random to get heads around but for others it will hopefully make perfect sense, perhaps it all depends on what medication you are taking. One second delicate and fragile the next storming and barking the album is rich in moods and emotions and really does take you on a trip that you may not have envisaged. It’s impossible to describe absolutely everything you will encounter here but once those melodies get their tendrils wrapped around your central cortex you are likely to find yourself seriously hooked. The 10 minute penultimate number ‘Till priset av vårt liv’ being the prime and utterly enthralling example. One thought on repeated listens that has come to me is that this is far from overly theatrical and with that in mind and the themes that are involved the work strikes as a really honest one and there is more likely to be a sense of pathos and the utmost respect for the fragility of the human mind.
Memories fade but the scars still linger on!
(8.5/10 Pete Woods)