When one begins his departure towards death, this journey is bound to open in deep silence, of reckonings to come. Cleaning mind and soul is highly necessary before diving into this faraway yet incredibly close realm. In this manner opens one of the best albums I’ve lend my ears to this year.
First of all I’d like to stress out the point that this album isn’t “proper” avantgarde. It’s original among the elusive genre called “dark metal”. Alas, one can try hard to stuck the avantgarde needle and come with dry hands, yet declare that what counts in this case are the feelings the music leaves behind. The borders Bergraven’s music crosses on and off are not so common as one might think. I tend to believe that albums like these are not so common, when the music clings to the heart and refuses to go, when it begs for life – the listener’s life. This music is located in the wide term of a man’s creation, that dares to be deep, sometimes deep like one sees in it the first times of revealing music.
“Dödsvisioner” (“Visions of death” – thanks to aVoid for the translations) is an excellent example of the dark metal genre – drizzling from some elite genres into an ice-cold mélange. Instead of rat’s eyes, there’s mid-tempo doom metal. Bat’s wings are removed to the benefit of Swedish black metal aesthetics, preferring melodies over irrational speed. Bergraven, as I see it, is a part of a group of metal acts (who nourish on the weak definition of ‘dark metal’) such as Shining, Forgotten Tomb or even Void of Silence, who imbibe their main point from the monumental Katatonia album “Brave murder day”. Bergraven is not different according to the experience of carving unforgettable emotions within few songs. Also song structures and distortion settings go as far as this peak of metal.
The first glance into the second album of the one-man act of Pär Gustafsson is located at the cover. This meticulous and elegant photograph gives an adequate shade to the world introduced throughout the music – a gothic and gloomy hall with closed doors. In a quick gaze one can almost miss a person (of unknown gender) lying on its back, its spirit already gone underneath the soil. On the left side, there’s a man peeking, one cannot tell if it’s a painting on the wall or the inspector of the underworld domain assuring departure. This is the very start of a deathly journey.
The opening track, “Döende” (“dying”), is a real spirit-blower. After the silent beginning hazy voices burst slowly out of nowhere, under the listener’s feet, standing on a firm soil, underneath lays only netherworld. When the music comes forth, after almost three minutes of serenity killer silence, the listener finds out that all this exposition was actually an elevator. He’s already deep down. The fleshy guitars bite, with them come synths in the costume of bells. As the name implores this is the ultimate dying experience according to Bergraven.
From this moment on the listener becomes Dante, soaring over different netherworld rooms, all with the same texture based on the beautiful combination between the rough distortion and the clean strumming, and giving right away the creeping shuddering. And yet, each room is another vision of the same phenomena. The clean guitars, hauntingly hurting, illustrate the void, this absolute vacuum of the underworld domain. Simultaneously, the distorted angry guitars remind that in the same domain there isn’t necessarily blood, fire and sulfur feasts, but loneliness and stagnation. Basing on the genre outfits, the combination ‘clean-harsh’ isn’t that overwhelming with surprises. However, Bergraven manage to load unto this much clever riffs and movements, keeping the songs with lack of boredom and moreover, high chills.
Another enthralled song is “Ondkall”, tearing apart the ‘clean-harsh’ duo and zigzagging between these torn entities, eloquently speaking the language of the dead. The utter zenith of the song is at the last minute, when a shivering yet ordinary solo hits a clean riff, struggling over with a sneaky bass line, showing once again that the “heaviness” on which we fed isn’t all distortion grounds. This plain solo is spine-tingling and terrifying with its simplicity. It surely left its mark on me. This is no peak of innovation, but god-darn-it, this is so touching and exciting. This is everything I need: emotion and atmosphere, smart musicianship with a twist and the ever-rare ability to leave a taste for more.
This is an album of long songs (accept the second one, a short instrumental track), curving through themselves, jumping from softness to harshness and vice-versa, from a bewitching melody to another. The production is tight – every instrument gets maximum resonance and only Pär’s voice is coming into being every song anew, may it be as its spearhead or as it’s a second trumpet for the guitars. In between barrages of sad guitars, piercing through long ambience sequels, echo this bluntly gentleness and become a pause from the netherworld journey – there are benches for resting along the troubled way.
Bergraven outline his death cycle – the first song keeps mid-tempo throughout its end and becomes slow until fading out in the last song, “Döende (an Avslutning)” (“dying (an ending)”), saying all begins and ends (of course) in death. This track is a proper ending for the album, a snail-slow and treading echo of the beginning, setting fire to cold flames. In this sounds crawling, the album dies into the silence after, of the listener yet again breathing deep inside and his searching eyes – what now? For me, it’s quite easy – I’m clicking the “repeat” button.
01 – Döende