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Black Testament

Agonia (2013)
Rating: 6/10

I’m amazed at the amount of one-man bands within the black metal genre. There really are some clever guys out there roaming the frosty forests in search of that elusive and remote sound.

Svartysn are no exception, the band being the brainchild of Ornias who since the foetid days of 1993 has been plying his unholy trade. Black Testament is the eighth full-length platter of impurity from this talented musician who hails from Sweden, and when I tell you that the name Svartysn means “pessimism” in his native tongue, it’s no surprise that this eight-track affair (including the 30-second intro) is a rather nasty affair.

Ornias is a multi-instrumentalist who likes to indulge in cold and frosty riffs that bring to mind the vintage days of Norwegian legendary black metal band Immortal, combined with the rasping vocals of Venom’s Cronos. Although this is a rather well-produced record, the album isn’t swamped by nifty dynamics or engulfed in symphonics. Instead, it rages hard from the scathing guitars and rapid-fire drumming, which I believe is the result of Ornias employing a session drummer.

During the early to mid 90s there was far too much black metal doing the rounds and a majority of bands did, sadly, all sound the same. But Svartysn is able to shift between structures and pace, combining grating melody – such as on opener ‘Revelation In The Waters’ – with a rusty battering ram quality, like on ‘Venom Of The Underworld’, which comes complete with deathly gurgles and another accessible riff that harkens back to the German style of thrash from the 1980s.

I have to admit however that Ornias, for all his talents, is not as bleak musically as I originally imagined him to be. That’s not to say that this is middle of the road black metal, but when you hear a track such as ‘Demoness With Seven Names’ you are merely transported back to the mid 90s style of direct, and slightly bland black metal, because although the riffs are sharp and the percussion hard-hitting, there’s not enough going on to distance it from countless other black metal tracks.

Even so, the obscure basement riff of ‘Carving A Temple’ is a carnal delight, but ‘Eyes Of The Earth’, ‘Rising Beast’ and the closing title track are very much more of the same with those gratingly cold guitars and repetitive drums.

I guess for some, this style of almost boring metal could be considered as achieving its objective to numb the soul, but almost 15 years ago bands like this were two a penny, all intent on churning out rather simplistic and slightly regressive hate. Fair play to Ornias for sticking to his trusty gun, but I much prefer labelmates Pest and their chesty brand of black ’n’ roll, because after a few spins Svartysn is the musical equivalent to swallowing razor-blades.

Neil Arnold

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