The first time I heard Varþnaþer by Åskog, it was while I was taking a midday stroll between shifts at work with the sun shining brightly down on me- not a very fitting scene for reviewing a black metal album, I know. However, the vicious and malevolent tones throughout the album spawned some inner visions of swirling darkness in my mind. Shades of black, grey, green, and brown came from within to shelter me from the luminosity of the daylight; it was an exceptional moment of dualism for me. As a result, I made sure to give the album a proper listen at home after work. First, I researched some of the history and geography of Sweden, a nation known to deliver some phenomenal music over the years to get a feel for the land that germinated Åskog. Upon learning that the country is almost 70% forestland, those swirling colors came back to mind as I pictured myself standing at the forest’s edge, facing westward as I bore witness to the final rays of the day’s sun paling behind the tree tops- now I was in the right place. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and pressed play.
I was immediately hit with an icy, sonic zephyr that soon receded yet picked up again to create an ebbing and flowing sensation within the first minute of the first track, titled “Svält”. Over the next few tracks, the album continues to attack and retreat while featuring some thunderous drums and either lingering or tranquil breaks. The crests and troughs of the album are further punctuated by swirling guitar solos, various vocal stylings and layering, eerie harmonies, and tempo changes. The chugging guitars on the third track, ‘Tid’, suggest a certain amount of control or restraint that allows the next track, “Måne”, (my personal favorite). This track is, without a doubt, the apex of Varþnaþer as it goes insane at the start and continues to push and pull while maintaining the intensity established in the first minute even throughout the tempo and tonal changes.
I don’t want to give too much detail about the rest of the album but, even after “Måne”, Åskog continues to bring it and reveal their potential as a band. My thoughts about production quality: quite good- especially for a black metal band. Varþnaþer was certainly not produced using a single microphone in the middle of the room; there was a great balance of tones and levels thundering through my headphones. Overall, I really enjoyed the experience of hearing and, at times, feeling Varþnaþer, by Åskog. I recommend you do yourself a favour and check them out, especially on Bandcamp Fridays.
Varþnaþer is out now