I?m a big fan of words that mean other things when you say them. For example, how ?experimental one-man black metal? means ?self-indulgent.? In the case of Bergraven, an experimental one-man black metal outfit from Sweden, whose third full-length comes via Hydra Head, it certainly rings true. Till Makabert V?sen (which according to the big truck in the computer translates to To the Macabre Essence) has a many tempo switches, jazzy interludes, heavy/soft transitions, and yes, even some black metal. It?s not necessarily enough to make me care, but there?s a whole league of people out there who eat this kind of thing up. So be it.
If Bergraven — P?r Gustafsson on vocals, bass and guitar joined on Till Makabert V?sen by studio drummer Perra Karlsson — does anything, it?s create a mood. The album is unremittingly dark and progressive, coming across like a textbook on inaccessibility. A track like ?Asketens Enda Prydnad? might be a highlight, with Gustafsson?s tortured growls over complex bass runs and sporadic guitar accents leading into heavier, Enslaved-style passages, but a lot of the material surrounding comes on in a wash, so it?s difficult to even appreciate the success of Bergraven?s execution. Goes without saying this is on purpose. There?s to be no celebration here.
Fine. I don?t think it?s out of line to call Bergraven hipster black metal. If nothing else, the Hydra Head connection ingratiates the band to an alternately elitist would-be intellectualism that has persisted in the heavy underground over the course of this past decade. And while I think Drudkh pulls off many of the same turns as Gustafsson with an even more accomplished cohesiveness, there?s no argument that, for what it is, Till Makabert V?sen is bound to please (or not, depending on their level of tr00ness) fans of the style. You don?t need a review to tell you that.
But all obstinacy aside, there?s a certain level of buying in this music requires of its listeners that many other metallic subgenres simply don?t deem necessary. I never actually believed Cannibal Corpse butchered anyone at birth, and I wasn?t supposed to. But here, the overwhelming negativity is essentially linked to the person writing the songs, in this case Gustafsson, in a way that I don?t believe has anything to do with the music. It takes the focus away from the music and puts it on the idea of performance. It?s like watching Hamlet and having the actors try and convince you the ghost is real. Why? What does it matter?
Till Makabert V?sen has plenty of cool parts, freeform structures and a bent toward unhinged expression, offering no shortage of delvable moments for those who would dig into it to do so. On that level, it?s a success whether or not it wants to be.Bergraven, Hydra Head, Sweden