If you read my last review of Sykelig Englen you might wonder what I’m doing with this. Or even why main man Nattskog sent this in to us. Well firstly I desperately tried to be constructive as I could just feel the talent and passion in there. Secondly it seemed Nattskog took it in that spirit from a comment. So here we are. A new EP already (Nattskog is beginning to make Rogga Johansson look workshy) and this time based around the folklore of Norfolk where he is now based.
From the opening notes of ‘Unearthing The Hex’ this is a bleak, yawning portal into somewhere else. Simple guitar line, tortured distant vocals; a thick atmosphere genuinely, beautifully conjured from those sparse ingredients. It’s got a little feel of Nortt to it, a little Midnight Configuration somehow. Tempo changes fluidly, twisting the riff into the depths managing to keep it both focussed and interesting. Now and then, deep in the background, there’s the almost subliminal sound of something else; keyboards maybe? Bass notes? Something tapping away. Raw sound but perfectly in keeping with the primordial feel.
No unnecessary lead breaks, no distractions, just a hypnotic and atmospheric track. I’m… Well. I mean I don’t know when this was recorded in relation to the album but it is different and for me it is not just a step up but, better by far, the idiosyncratic vision is finally spreading out over the sound.
‘Bearer Of The Ritual Lantern’ has a similar atmosphere but a little more driving. The vocals are again excellent and the riff moves strangely between a punkish black metal/early Celtic Frost to a yearning, almost folky feel and when the short lead break comes it doesn’t bother me so much. Maybe it’s that old Tom Warrior feel it has to it, maybe I’m just used to it but this time it works for me.. Grand track again. The title track continues to press home the eerie feel; the discordant breaks of melody and tremolo notes over the riff leave you unsettled, and even more variation to the vocals keeps the unbalanced nature in the forefront.
Maybe I think the drumming gets a bit samey over these three tracks but it does the job and this is about those riffs, those vocals and the songs so it gets a pass.
Closing (bonus) track ‘Parasitic Affection’ is very different. Clearly not part of a self contained EP it is still worth being here. Compared to the EP it has relatively light guitar lines, little melodic runs really. With the death vocals this reminds me of some of the early nineties weirdness that flared out of the scene (anyone else remember that possibly German duo who combined death vocals with light, lilting classical piano?) It’s eccentric as hell and none the worse for it. Might not be to be everyone’s taste but frankly I think it shows Nattskog determined to follow his own vision, which is fine by me.
So…Well. Look I am so pleased I heard this. It is for me not just a real step up in production and more focussed composition, but it is at a point where it is allowing the distinct vision to properly open out. The odd melodies, the sometimes eccentric feel, the thought. Not trying to cram every idea into one song, letting the composition breathe all seem to be working here.
All good, all very good. I knew there was good stuff to come. Thank you Sykelig Englen. Thank you for continuing to do your own thing.
Into raw, intense but individualistic atmospheric black metal? Get hold of this EP. Well worth it