27 January 2014
by Pete Long
For those not aware, Kampfar is apparently an old Norse war cry meaning “Odin”, with a probable alternate meaning of “we’re going to disembowel you”. If you already knew that, you’re probably also aware of the Norwegian black metal band bearing that name. They have just released Djevelmakt, the follow up to 2011’s Mare, which was all about witches. Djevelmakt is all about “the muck and bile of the underworlds” which is, as concepts go, a pretty damn suitable one given their music.
For there is a dark and dirty feeling to this album. The fuzziness of the guitar tone, the slightly hypnotic dirge-like riffs and Dolk’s slightly raspy howls makes it feel soiled in the good way. Kampfar’s brand of black metal is mid-paced and solemn, something that is accentuated by the frequent forays into folk, which is pulled off without any loss of bite. Album opener ‘Mylder’ is a good example of this with a flute section occasionally joining in and then fading out without the musical assault ever stopping. Drummer Ask Ty does a fine job of providing dynamics and depth to the music, contrasting well with Ole’s relentless riffing.
Djevelmakt is a remarkably consistent album both in style and quality. Given the nature of Kampfar’s songs this does make things feel rather formless and indistinct in some ways (which I suppose the underworld would be). They eschew radical departures or massive climaxes, but if you embrace that and there are several high points. ‘Swarm Norvegicus’ moves seamlessly between menacing black metal and something more reminiscent of Moonsorrow. There’s an interesting groove to much of ‘’Blod, Eder og Gaul’ while ‘De Dødes Fane’ combines moments of early Emperor-style speed with more of the flutes, while the combination of the vocals of both Ask Ty and Dolk gives ‘My Hounds, My Legion’ a Primordial-esque vibe.
The Norwegians have a strong sound and a well-honed ability to make the most of it. Djevelmakt is merely living up to that reputation. Simultaneously raw and grand, maybe it does evoke something of the underworld – or maybe it’s just a very good album.
Sounds Like: Moonsorrow’s punchier and more aggressive cousin. Moonsorrow on moonshine, if you will.
Standout Tracks: Swarm Norvegicus, De Dødes Fane, Mylder