(Ashen Dominion, 2018)
#FOR FANS OF: Pagan Black Metal, Drudkh
Rather than harmoniously flow through each transition in 'Vargkult', Ulvegr directly injects each new guitar into its mix with tight changes that leave no room for error as each twist of the treble forms rugged pointed angles. Opening the album with an avalanche of words carefully selected from a black metal thesaurus, “Rune Ice Frozen Hatred” compliments its syllabic spew with the delirium of viciously recycling reeling stabbing strings deeply into the ear as gnarled and barked vocals attempt to claw through the center. The title of this opening track is the sort of syllabic spurge expected to proliferate in only two places: Japanese comic books and underground black metal, and I don't see any pointy hair on these two black clad brooders. Corpse-painted even into the depths of his protruding beard, one member of Ulvegr looks like a tired alcoholic parody of Gaahl regally posing with his dejected companion as they wonder if they'll be able to afford another can of paint from the local hardware store with the proceeds from this latest album or if they'll need to go Geisha Facial and break out the bird poop bucket again. Common in the raw black metal style, the background of this literal and sonic cascade is maintained by an ever energetic and uncompromising cavalcade of percussive snaps that atonally clang through the song in total disregard to the glorious harmonic charge sweeping overhead. Ulvegr is a band that gives little ground to its audience, instead preferring to arm itself against the mob with an unbreakable sonic assault.
Though bass may be starkly absent in the recording of “Rune Ice Frozen Hatred”, it is an immediate and apparent addition throughout the rest of 'Vargkult' as the rhythm guitar endures a stark change of tone and the fidelity somewhat improves. Simple, brutal, and unrelenting, Ulvegr imparts the grim intensity of tree worshiping, goat sacrificing, tourist luring forest folk that, unlike their banjo playing counterparts across the Ocean, honor an ancient and untamed land awash with generations of blood. While the squealing opening track sears itself into the ear, a more dulcet and clouded sound settles over the land in “Cold Graves Breathing Beast”, filling the atmosphere with snow while sapping the Sun of its heat as the drumming calmly chisels away with the cymbal above a cascade that finds faster footing the further into the ground it penetrates. Searching for pockets of heat in this uninhabitable hellscape, the putridity unearthed in this excavation is impossible to ignore but the shovels must continue their trench work nonetheless. Awesome blast beating in “Death is Our Law” rallies a flagging riff into a second wind that charges forth to litter the field with corpses as another aptly titled song, “Cutting off Your Throat”, elaborates on the midpoint cycling of these frantic, horrified, and simply savory riffs, even going so far as to attempt to harmonize across artillery hellfire with a barely audible additional guitar near the end of the song.
As another major change of recording quality announces the closing track, “We Remember the Blood”, the relentless simplicity grinds mental grist as much as Ulvegr unleashes its furious, hardheaded, and straightforward krieg with such zeal that its potency is not lost to the formulaic reality that “All the Sheep to the Slaughter” may as well be “Rune Ice Frozen Hatred” or “Cutting Off Your Throat” again. Furiously flaying the listener in preparation for an unceremonious execution, Ulvegr elucidates on the irreverence and stripped-down indignity of the mass grave covering 'Vargkult' in the brutal way that shows that the spray of a machine gun makes the same sound no matter who stands in front of it.