Familiar, Yet Revolutionary: Dødheimsgard Surges Forward on “Black Medium Current” (Review)
For the devout, Dødheimsgard’s appeal is that we can rely on them for unpredictability and wonderment with each passing prolific phase. Within each album lies a process of dormancy, reconstruction, then a hallowed unfurling of a newly reborn formation. Twenty eight years after the inception of the Dødheimsgard journey, a new level of maturity and complex originality is likely. Upon partaking in Black Medium Current, I cannot deny being met with the alluring comfort of familiarity. There's the calm yet impassioned churning of specifically Norwegian black metal, overtly reminiscent of Bergtatt or Transilvanian Hunger. Yet as the lengthy phrases begin to unfurl and lengthen, and the vibrant being that is formed as Black Medium Current becomes more and more known, a sense of awe overcomes you as the challenge of understanding presents itself. The familiar references to yesteryear are the exchange for the amount of attention you’ll need to fully consume this undertaking of a record.
What may strike most listeners first upon delving into the folds of Black Medium Current is that while this is no doubt black metal, these songs dwell in a space of sultry smoothness and clarity. Anyone looking for the wild unpredictability this band is known for on their past few albums, be patient: the payoff of Black Medium Current is in the 69-minute long journey. It's a lengthy affair and it feels almost hedonistic to indulge in all that the album has to offer, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Any omission would detract from the story and though a throng of new ideas and challenges await you, the brilliance here is that a linear and impressive cohesiveness is a striking maturity found since the last album. In black metal we pour our energies into separating ourselves from that which makes us human. In contrast to this tired path, the expressions are more sincere than ever, something I find makes the album strike me as a wholly new voice.
While the album's sultry malice is a new appeal for Dødheimsgard, what I also wasn't expecting was a profound element of sorrow and melancholy. The album seems like a candid glimpse into a cathartic release and reflection upon significant pent-up loss. Where there was once a wildly metaphoric amalgam of chaotic insanity, there is now a very tangible and languid dread of hopelessness. Some of the morose and languid moanings give me tingly Ved Buens Ende vibes. The characteristic absurdities are peppered throughout but take on a very new demeanor amidst the surrounding context of meandering woe.
Since the most recent cocoon phase of Dødheimsgard's rebirth, only Vicotnik remains of the prior ranks. This is the band's first recording since Vic's taking over vocals, an element that has always been a key identifying highlight of prior identities. I wouldn't want anyone to fill Aldrahn's empty shoes, so in his stead, Vicotnik has dumped masses of his personality into the role. He delivers one of the most notably charismatic vocal performances I can ever recall. I would only say I was surprised if this was any other band. Sometimes he can sound as multi-voiced and vast as Devin Townsend, and sometimes as gnarled and grim and crooked as Aldrahn ever was. There are some very original ideas in vocal layering and harmonizing that just send me into a drunken state of awe.
The rest of the new players are no doubt tremendous. Myrvoll’s dexterity is pivotal to performing these dramatic and swift compositional bends. The clever transitions ease along with introductory phrases and patterns that prepare you for every meandering twist. Giving these songs a dark fog of unease at times, and others a confident and exuberant howl of joy born of the release of prior pains.
The older I get, the more I need to escape this languid dimensional plane. Every time I close my eyes, I reach as far as I can for nothing but the distance. For many years Dødheimsgard has been alluding to an unfathomable world far away from here. Today is the day they take us there, and Black Medium Current feels like the utopian grotesquery of my dreams.
Black Medium Current was released April 14th via Peaceville Records.
Check out the podcast we did with Vicotnik, also!