There is something bewitching about stark and expressionless landscapes, a chilling seduction which embraces the senses and enthrals the imagination. This also applies to cold and desolate aural terrains, especially those conjured by Norwegian black metallers Hagl on debut album Lenket til Livet. With masterful creative hues throughout, it is a ten track ravenous exploration of uncomfortable emotional and physical terrains, a captivation of ears and thoughts providing an hour of thickly satisfying provocation.
Featuring members of other Norwegian black metal exports in Beastcraft, Endezzma, and Vulture, Hagl’s sound basks in the seeds and original depths of their region’s black metal, infusing it with strains of modern resourcefulness and ideation. As shown by Lenket til Livet, the trio of Malphas (guitars, bass and mellotron), Sorath (vocals), and Gheist (drums) also delve into the darkest pestilential climates and ruthless depths of ruin, decay, and sound, dragging the listener with them. The album is a long term investment of time and attention it is fair to say, but with increasing rewards repaying the demanding effort.
The album opens with Askefast, its initial web of guitar and sonic tempting a cold, ruthless wind alone setting the terms and conditions of the impending crawl through ears and psyche. The raw monotone shaded tones of Sorath equally set the scene for his delivery and also the insidious nature of song and release. As harsh and abrasive as it all is, there is also a magnetic swim of melodic suggestiveness lurking in the ambience of the track, the guitars almost flirting with the imagination until stepping into clarity further into the song to expel fresh evocative expression.
It is a transfixing start matched by the more rigorous and savage Den Sorte Porten where rhythms and riffs immediately show more aggressive urgency and volatility. A lumbering stalking of the senses emerges eventually though, scythes of guitar and brutal rhythmic stabs lining the incitement before busying themselves again beneath the singularly gaited stroll of the vocals. The song continues to flit between both assaults, smothering all before with its ruinous touch before making way for the predatory and glacial trespass of Ulvehyrde which in turn gives the listener to Fra Kulden Til Flammene to consume. The first of the two reveals a great trail of sonic colouring, grooves which could just as much be bred in the barren realms of post punk as metal, whilst its successor from an enthralling and delicious acoustic serenade of guitar, spreads a melodically toxic tapestry courted by heavier and less dramatic but just as potent bass predation. The track is a gripping affair, the guitar of Malphas absolutely stealing the show but sizeably backed by the individual intimidations and threats of Sorath and Gheist for one of the major moments of the album.
Helvete Ligger Så I Lende is a little less striking yet the melodic shimmers from the guitar within the relentless encroachment by its bitter and rancorous presence is almost sorcerous in its tempting, whilst Ondskapt brings its own blend of aural savagery and melodic beauty right after. There is a running similarity of sorts in the templates and sculpting of many tracks within Lenket til Livet, as shown again by this pair, but it matters little such the radiant lure and exploits shaping each track’s individual cancers. There is an additional undefined spark to the second of the two allowing it to shine out over others and the fruitless scenery cast by Liksøk right after it, another offering with plenty to entangle ears and appetite in such as the slow rabidity of the vocals and rhythms as well as almost intoxicating melodies.
Sjelefiende almost bounds along compared to the previous songs, its keen stroll an infectious enticement draped in tendrils of sonic suggestion and hate infested vocals, whilst Vardøgn drifts solemnly through its own emotional desolation littered with crystaline temptation. As all tracks there is much more going on within the intrusion, plenty to be discovered over time which ultimately only increases the success and impressiveness of Lenket til Livet too.
Closing with the corrosive weight and ferocity of Endelikt, a track in a constant evolution as bracing as it is inhospitable and as creative as it is overwhelmingly tempestuous, Lenket til Livet is an enthralling and punishingly enjoyable encounter. Though overall it did not ignite ears as to the same consistency as it might and as one of two other recent genre releases every listen brings something new and more persuasive, its stature only growing. Well worth a hearty checking out is the suggestion.
Lenket til Livet is available now via Folter Records @ http://folter666shop.de/