So it’s back to life, emptiness and chaos from the solo artist Kval from Finland who professes to a liking for Burzum. This is a follow up to his impressively bleak self-titled release of 2017.
“Laho” comprises five weighty pieces. From the outset we are transported to a cold world of despair and greyness. The delicate acoustic tones and ringing backdrop provide momentary pause for reflection, but make no mistake: this is a harsh, menacing affair. “Valosula” pumps up to an occasionally frenzied and always despairing and controlled black atmosphere. The figurative vultures are fluttering just as they would do on any later Burzum work. This is a world without mercy or passion, yet there is colour from the heaving soundscape, just that the colours are dark shades of black and grey. No less grey is the title track which follows, however this one is an ambient, melancholic piece which charges up into an epic wilderness. Despair and anguish ooze from the harsh vocals. A quiet passage ensues. The softer vocals smack of post-battle reflection. Always there is an air of natural freedom. In fact having got used to the grey and bleak world of Kval, now there is the beauty of a tranquil scene. The track “Laho” (translating as “Rot”) is a masterpiece of structure as the atmosphere rises again into epic heights to juxtapose the calm and delicate instrumentals. “Laho” is transfixing. “Pohjanriitti” drags us some more through the mire. The bleak and cold atmosphere remains constant, which makes for endurance rather than excitement, or the intrigue and beauty that characterised “Laho”. “Kaihon Kuiskaus” starts in a sombre, symphonic tone. And so it continues. Where I detected elements of life in the previous three pieces, here is six minutes of lifelessness. Chilling.
I read that “Laho” is meant to be a metaphor for the human mind. I heard melancholy and despair aplenty here, but I have to say that apart from that I didn’t feel this work from a human point of view. The coldness is distinctly inhuman. In my mind this was about grey scenes, inhospitable wastelands and maybe unforgiving forests, changing seasons and ultimately death. I guess everyone will respond in a different way, but the artist Kval has done what good artists do, and provoked reaction through these darkly atmospheric soundscapes.
(8.5/10 Andrew Doherty)