Sunday, April 3, 2011

KAMPFAR - Mare CD review

Napalm Records
Genre: Black Metal/Pagan
Rating: 5/5

When it came for me getting into this band I was late for the battle but once I arrived I joined in and have enjoyed the war ever since. My introduction to KAMPFAR came with their 2008 release Heimgang, which was one of my top ten favorite releases for that year and since then I've picked up two other of their previous full length releases. The draw for me was that KAMPFAR were not your typical Norwegian Black Metal nor are they Viking wannabes. Their sound is pagan Norse and epic as if you're standing in a valley in Norway starring up at woodlands that line a mountainside which eventually turns into snow and ice covered rocky terrain. We're talking about a majestic site to behold. I've always envisioned that the members of KAMPFAR actually resided in those forests, coming out every once in a while to record and tour. They do take plenty of time between releases so it's not a stretch to imagine them hanging out with nature in order to gather influences and experiences which will later become songs for a new release. In a musical realm where bandwagon jumping is the norm and adorning yourself in Halloween garb to promote a fantasy is laughable it's a pleasure to hear a band that's real. KAMPFAR are as real as it gets to the whole pagan Norse attitude.

Those of you who are long time fans might be surprised by this new one since it's, for lack of a better term, their most metal release by far. Part of that reason falls on the shoulders of producer Peter Tägtgren, who not only is the long time mastermind of his own band HYPOCRISY but has over fifteen years of extreme metal production credits that'll make your head spin. I know I have at least twenty five releases where he's responsible for twisting the knobs, you might have more. Obviously the other part of the reasoning for the band's more aggressive sound falls on to the band themselves. Thomas, whose guitar sound and style were rooted in classical and folk roots, is out of the band. Vocalist Dolk is the only original member now and since he's responsible for the band's blackened side it's obvious why things sound far more aggressive this time out. You won't read any complaints from me on that note since to me KAMPFAR can do now wrong unless of course they turned into a deathcore band which is unlikely. Listen to the opening title cut which sounds like an army of norsemen marching out from those afore mentioned woods into the field of battle. This is epic!

Mare is full of surprises one of which comes quickly is their heavy reliance on background keyboards to fill up their sound. Although I wouldn't say they're treading into symphonic black metal territory. There are a few times when I'm reminded of EMPEROR like on the second cut "Ildstemmer". Still all the cuts on here will give you frost blisters. Like I mentioned before the opening and title cut simply rushes out at you like warriors charging into battle. "Huldreland" is very subdued with it's epic yet atmospheric approach. It has this militaristic cadence which slowly builds while Dolk lets out these deep foreboding clean vocals at first and then lets fly his harsh battle cry screams. Clearly "Huldreland" is one of the best cuts on here but then this whole release is exceptional. Now although I mentioned surprises were in store for long time fans there's also plenty of old reminders of past greatness. Songs like the exceptional "Bergtatt' plus "Nattgang", which comes near the end of the release, remind you of where this band came from. This is epic Norse fueled black metal which Peter Tägtgren thankfully did not drown out. Another incredible cut is "Blitzwitch" which also holds true to their past musical heritage and with added background keyboards. In the end it's simply another great release from KAMPFAR.




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