So, if there was to be a prize this year for the album title that most accurately described the music therein, it would be “Unholy Nordic Noise”. I like to think that the Swedish crew have just time-travelled in from an alternative early 1980s – one in which the Black Metal second wave movement had happened a decade earlier, and this was the product.
With a demo and this full lengther to their name, the Swedish pair of Duca the Impaler and erm… Ithyphallic Flaggelator (I imagine Mr and Mrs Flaggelator didn’t want to go with something a little more standard, like Frank or Brian) would appear to have only been going as a concern since 2018. That being said, it sounds as if they’ve been going since 1981; or rather that this is an album that encapsulates the spirit of 1981. “Unholy Nordic Noise” is, you see, a blackened slice of speed metal. It has a dash of that punky-gonzo aggression that early Venom had. It has the detuned and slightly crackers vibe that Celtic Frost had (and never were able to capture again) on Morbid Tales. Hell, it even has a little of early Slayer, but as if they’d just been turned over by early Discharge. Yes folks, this is an album that’s as much Atomkraft as it is Bathory. It’s essentially the dirtier, sleazier aspects of NwoBHM as filtered through lo-fi Darkthrone – and hell if it isn’t fun.
Personally, I’m fond of guitar solos that sound as if they took as long to write as they took to play (as on “Arctic Wrath – Blood and Bone”). I like the fact that most of the tracks just start abruptly, have an enraged cider-swilling stumble about and then just disappear just as abruptly. I even don’t mind when the tracks last more than three minutes, though of course that’s a bit of a rarity among the dozen tracks here. Let’s be frank about this – the production on the album is absolutely horrible. It sounds as if you’ve just unearthed an old demo tape which your weird uncle used to keep in garage, and it was a 4th generation recording on an unbranded Woolworths C120. That’s precisely why it’s so bloody great. This is what this music is supposed to sound like; wilfully obscure, fuzzy around the edges and a bit unhinged. So sure, not everyone is going to like a guitar sound like an angry wasp in a ziplock bag, and no, not every metal head is going to appreciate the drum sound a little like slapping wet cardboard. Not only do Reaper not care about that, I suspect that they like it that their music is going to turn off people. If they don’t chuckle at it I would be surprised.
…Yet if you can reconcile yourself to this very authentic sound, then you’re in for a big, fun treat. Personally, I can listen to the shambolic sprint of “Surrender to the Void”, with its earnest shuffle, its rasping vocals and raggedy-ass cymbal work all day long. It knows what it is, it doesn’t care if you like it and it smells a bit. That’ll do me just fine.
(8/10 Chris Davison)