As with Gehenna, I was stoked to be asked to review the new Kampfar album. Kampfar was one of those bands I discovered through Pandora (US only internet radio station, http://www.pandora.com – Editor), when they would crop up randomly on the station I used to listen to at work in the library storage building. Although Kvass is the album that I became most familiar with through Pandora, and the new one is quite a bit different from that, I really love Djevelmakt as Kampfar is doing interesting and original things with the genre.
Kampfar’s brand of pagan black metal, a mix of black metal riffs and folkish passages, is still going strong on Djevelmakt. For instance, in the beginning of “Blod, Eder og Galle,” the strings have a folkish melody that carries throughout the song in the guitars. According to Encyclopedia Metallum, “Kampfar” is an ancient Norse battle cry that means Odin or Wotan. I feel like this battle cry is present in some of the songs as well- “Our Hounds, Our Legion” ends with a rousing cry like fierce Vikings charging into war.
For me, one of the coolest parts of Djevelmakt is the unexpected notes that occur throughout the album. Djevelmakt is full of them; “Kujon”, for example, has a progression that shifts suddenly to a note that sounds off, and is not at all what you would expect (at :18, etc.). “Swarm Norvegicus”, a march-like battle hymn, also has some dissonant notes. “Svarte Sjelers Salme” is full of unanticipated twists and turns, melding together a catchy, folky melody (and is that a major chord?) and ear-wormy riffs making for an incredibly fun three and a half minutes.
The instrumentation on this album is another one of my favorite parts. Though Kampfar doesn’t have a full time keyboardist, Djevelmakt has some keyboards on it; I assume that the strings and orchestral parts are keyboards, and “Fortapelse” opens with a lovely piano melody. The opening track, “Mylder”, features a flute, which was surprising to me. It’s an awesome addition, however, and fits very well in contrast with the heavy beat of the song. The flute returns on “De Dødes Fane”, lending its eerie notes to the cacophonous feel of the churning guitars.
The production on Djevelmakt is clean, but very well mixed. The vocals have a bit of an echo to them in places, fitting with the battle-like nature of the album. Likewise, the mix between the guitars and the keyboards is well done, with neither one overpowering the other. While Djevelmakt is in no way the low-fi noise so traditional to Norwegian black metal in particular, I feel like the way in which the album was mixed, with that slight echo, lends a muddiness to the record that reflects the chaos of battle without covering up the really fantastic instrumentation and strange tonal shifts. It is a clean production, in other words, but one that pleases my inner black metal elitist.
In regards to the cover art, this artwork has a very warm feel to it, with tones of gold and reds. A far cry, then, from the icescape of Kvass. But never fear- the coldness that Kampfar is so associated with in my mind is not gone from this album, but rather contrasted with musical phrases that feel like the hot spray of blood on the battlefield.
To be honest, listening to Djevelmakt the other morning completely made my day because of how good it is. I was having a bad morning, and all I had to do was throw this one on to think “Black metal still lives; everything is going to be okay.” I really love this new Kampfar record, and now I have some more songs to add to the “Riding Into Battle” playlist.