Høstsol – Länge Leve Döden – Album Review
Album Title: Länge Leve Döden
Label: Avantgarde Music
Date of Release: 13 January 2022
I came across this album quite by accident and what a wonderfully fortunate accident it has proven to be. ‘Länge Leve Döden’ is the debut release from a quartet of musicians of which many will no doubt be familiar. The project involves Cernunnus (Manes), Kalmos (ex-Barathrum), Rainer Tuominkanto (Ajattara) and Niklas Kvarforth (Shining) and goes by the name of Høstsol. Regardless of the names involved though, if you like your black metal to sound like it did back in the 90s, when many might argue that the genre was in its pomp, then ‘Länge Leve Döden’ will be a sure-fire winner.
Translated as ‘Long Live Death’, it is hardly surprising to learn that this five-track record is described by the four Scandinavian musicians as their ‘monumental celebration of the great Lord of Death’. Over the course of 45 minutes or so, Høstsol deliver a chilling and spiteful soundtrack that should create an unedifying attack on the senses. However, punctuated by atmospheric interludes of sombre minimalism and imbued with subtle and insidious melodic beauty, it is anything but. In fact, there is a wondrous majesty to the black metal assault that spews forth with icy elegance from the speakers.
There is a clear and present argument to suggest that the material here offers nothing new, instead plundering the days of yesteryear for inspiration throughout. But the key point to make is that this doesn’t matter because the final product stands up to any scrutiny that is levelled at it. Had ‘Länge Leve Döden’ been poorly executed, bloated, or an exercise in cynically ripping off the past for the sake of it, then my review would be completely different. Instead, I really like this album because you can feel the love and dedication that has been poured into the music from this quartet. And more than that, the music is incredibly enjoyable, reminding me why I got into the genre in the first place back when I was a teenager.
The album only boasts five tracks, but they are all lengthy affairs, meaning that the album lasts for a very healthy 45 minutes. And in time, there is much to enjoy. First off, the compositions are all of a consistently high quality, certainly never dropping in intensity, or inviting boredom – far from it.
Having said that, my ears are drawn to two particular tracks that I feel are where Høstsol are at their very finest. The first of these is the opening track, ‘As Seen Through The Eyes Of The Prophet’. It takes a very long time to build and to get going but is all the better for it. Over the course of nearly three minutes, a tangible sense of tension is created as the sound of choral vocal effects and dreamlike synths ebb and flow, a baroque-like sense of Gothic darkness and foreboding flowing through the speakers. Every time you think that the song will break into it the black metal that you’re expecting, we get a little more suspense instead, until finally, the sound of cymbals signals the introduction of the first frosty riffs. Fast-picked and icy they are, but there’s a sense of immediacy and, dare I say it, warmth to the almost unexpectedly catchy proceedings, enhanced by playful a playful bass and evocative lead guitar lines.
It’s not all sweetness and light though, because there’s a ferocity to the tempo in the latter stages, as blastbeats pummel at the heart of the song, whilst vocalist Niklas Kvarforth delivers one hell of a spiteful, caustic, and venomous performance.
If anything, the third track, ‘Länge Leve Den Anisktlöse Mördaren’ takes the melody and memorability to yet another level, a welcome discovery for someone like me who’s a sucker for melody. Again, as with the opener, the track opens quietly to the sombre sounds of plainsong and a gradually swelling organ, before it explodes into a flurry of swift and devastating atmospheric black metal, full of fury and sharp attacking intent. Again, the vocals are wonderfully delivered, adding to the malevolence of the aural bombast. But as fast and potent as the metal is, there’s an underlying elegance to it, created by the swathes of keys that are nestled within the composition. And, as the song continues, the tumult is dialled back to allow even more atmosphere to emerge. Gently-plucked guitar notes, vibrant bass, and rich synths all combine to amazing effect, turning what is a blistering affair into something altogether more melancholy and whimsical, almost heartrending as the ghostly sounds wrap themselves around the ears and burrow deep within.
The remaining three songs are no slouches either, each one bringing something engaging to the table. The otherworldly intro to ‘Det Som En Gång Var (Det Kommer Aldrig Igen)’, for example, is claustrophobic and eerie, a portent to yet more thunderous and unrelenting black metal that has an air of early Emperor to it, as well as a smidge of early Cradle Of Filth as well if I might be so bold. The keys again play an important role, but the entire band is on top form as the darkness descends in truly epic and swift fashion, the only respite to the bludgeoning occurring during a mid-song interval.
I feared that I might grow tired of this record after a few concerted spins, but if anything, the opposite is true. There’s a magic that is undeniable, one that cannot be ignored, and which grows ever stronger as I listen. You can really hear the passion, commitment and desire from these musicians within their music here and it is this that provides that magic I think – this is clearly a labour of love by Høstsol, and it shines through, somewhat ironically given that their music seeks to worship at the altar of death and darkness. Regardless of the irony however, anyone who hankers after the black metal days of yore should ensure that ‘Länge Leve Döden’ does not pass you by.
The Score of Much Metal: 90%