Saturday, May 15, 2010

Blodulv - II

Blodulv - II
2004, Total Holocaust Records

At this point I am new to this band and so can't begin this review with some kind of tracking view of their development over time, if there indeed has been any. No, Blodulv (meaning - what? Blood wolf?) spring fully-formed into my consciousness as I play this album the first few times, without introduction or faltering, halting herald's steps, without any kind of slow seeping pestilential rumor whirling through the underground. I am forced to face this with only my own experience as a guide...

So, of course: black metal. To be more precise, Norwegian early-90s style black metal from a Swedish band. For the most part Blodulv seem to draw influences from Gorgoroth's first two or three releases, maybe a tint or slightest trace/tone from Darkthrone's third, fourth, and fifth, and then in certain "melancholy", meandering, slow melodies that fill out the background in their songs they might or might not be flaunting a resonating reference to Burzum. A very simple construction, then, nothing too complicated or overly shaded, nothing deliberately technical or complex, nothing at all unexpected or experimental (this is a completely traditional affair), all the songs following a few basic rules of elaboration: mid-paced or sluggish tempi in extremely rudimentary drum patterns (basically all cymbal, snare, and kick - like '50s rock or some kind of teenage garage band), one or two repeating (repetition is the primary compositional method of this band) guitar segments (when two are used - one being the foundation chord progression, the other being a complementary second guitar that comments upon and illustrates the first structural riffs with a more melodic/lead line), a bass guitar that might or might not be there (I can't tell), and snarled, echoing screams, chants, and Satanic calls to the dark sent through distortion effects...sounding much like Gorgoroth, once again, or some of Mutiilation's early recordings. The overall impact, then, is purely "nostalgic" and you can probably hear this band in your imagination based on what I have said already. For those of you who adore the other bands mentioned above and can't get enough of their primal, deliberately atavistic mode of operation, look no further. Blodulv has been pressed from the same mint, descends from the same blood (sorry) lines...they lope, gallop, and soar, at times, along similar paths.

However out of all the bands doing this kind of thing, playing in this style, there are a few who at least seem, in their songs, to know what they are doing and why they are doing it, and don't lose their train of thought as they play or go down paths they are not suited to explore. There are a few bands who just seem very comfortable within their self-imposed genre/style restraints and so never appear awkward in their compositions...this can also just be a result of extensive reworking of the songs, fine-tuning them to a certain point of rigid definition. In any case, Blodulv are one of these bands...

In having such a traditional/conservative approach, the only avenue Blodulv has open for them in terms of crafting music that may express personal/idiosyncratic emotions and signify or symbolize their own situations, events, desires, etc. is just the riffs that they have chosen, the primary melodic forms they are plugging into the equation of standard Norwegian black metal. Even these riffs are half-predetermined, or at least their structural alteration and progression through the unadventurous, conventional forms of the compositional process are concretely defined, so Blodulv must try to squeeze as much feeling and personal emphasis into these simple note strings at their earliest, before they have been seized by the trad black metal machine and ripped and recombined into Darkthrone form A or Gorgoroth form B. Do they succeed? At times. At points an almost-original tone is struck, a doorway opens into a world that could offer something new and noteworthy to the listener. These moments mainly manifest themselves in the more adventurous (in terms of songwriting patterns applied) segments such as the slow dual-guitar embellishments and hesitant exploration of the possibilities two contrasting melodies can offer the trad Norwegian configuration. See the portion of "Stronghold" starting at 3:20 for an example of this, where the band applies a "folk" theme that distantly evokes Amorphis...it appears again at 6:00 in an altered form. Also noteworthy is the opening of the next track, "Tyrant", built upon a similar two-guitar interaction. I can only hope that Blodulv seizes upon these ideas in the future and explores them further...I don't want to see them becoming even more primitive.