Label: Napalm Records
(O) is a Danish black metal lineup that promises on their debut album, SkamHan, “Seven explosive and oppressive tracks presented in a frenzied mania blossom into a hallucinating mixture of black, drone and post metal spiced with intense sludge and progressive influences.” The album is being released on April 24th, 2020, via Napalm Records and while I can rightly agree that there are seven tracks on the album and that there are indeed different metal influences, everything else is a bit hyperbolic.
Let’s get this right out of the way: it’s a pretty good album and I don’t have much to say about it. It’s competently composed, played, recorded, and mixed and as such, there is so little to talk about that it’s quite depressing, which seems quite apropos but not quite in the way that it was probably meant to be taken. This is the worst kind of album to write about since there is nothing outright bad about it, so there’s nothing to make fun of, while the good parts seem only mildly interesting, so they don’t define the album enough. Maybe because it grew a bit boring after a dozen or so times, it became necessary to pay special attention to the lyrics. I’m afraid Google Translate isn’t yet poet enough to accurately translate everything, but I think I got the gist of it. Interestingly enough, I could fit some elements from Warhammer 40,000 into the songs and the final track could well be written after the Exterminatus, since “Alle Renses” translates to “All Cleansed.” Wishful thinking and circumstantial evidence aside – as seen in the promotional picture – it is still only wallpaper and set dressing, and such only talked about since there is so very little else to talk about. It feels like criticizing macaroni and cheese on a fancy plate.
Let’s just go through the tracks in order and find something to praise in every song, shall we:
1. “Tyndere end Hud”
The main riff is nicely proggy and switches to the classic black metal shredding before it gets too repetitive.
The trilling guitars between verses are quite good; they sound a bit off-putting in a positive way.
The vocals on this track are probably the best on the album. “Skarntyder” and its rhyming counterparts sound really good, even if I have no clue what they’re singing about.
4. “Rød Glorie”
The atmospheric parts around the middle give a welcome change of pace and color from earlier. It feels a bit cosmic horror-y, for lack of a better term.
The last minute or so is good, since it ends the song in a satisfying crescendo.
The latter half of the song gets quite atmospheric and thus is better for it.
7. “Alle Renses”
The best song of the album, since it gets rid of everything extra. It has great touches that remind me of Blade Runner, the cyberpunk genre in general, and even with bits of Silent Hill every now and again. It seems to be the most focused on what it wants to be out of all the songs on the album.
It feels to me that the album is just too broad a package to really get the attention of many. While it can be argued that it’s not the point to catch mainstream appeal, why does it feel so watery if it is supposed to cater to a very niche fanbase? Making more use of food analogies, it feels like making soup without proper stock. Tasty bits here and there but not strong enough to gel the whole experience together, until you get to the dessert that is “Alle Renses” which feels like what the entire album should have been. Science fiction-y dystopian ambiance is a great album concept in itself, brooding progressive introspective black metal is another, and mixing the two seems not to have had the desired effect.
Despite the lack of interesting descriptions, it is still a good album. It’s perfectly serviceable, if a tad lacking in substance. I just wish it was set in space, since space makes everything better, but I don’t know what the Danish word for space is. Probably spæs.
Rating: 7/10, 3.5 stars
1. Tyndere end Hug
4. Rød Glorie
7. Alle Renses