This is a wonderful album. Sorry, but it is the first line that comes to mind every time I think about "Kvass" from Norway's KAMPFAR. The folk-pagan-Viking (you know the deal) black metal of KAMPFAR is well constructed, memorable, and powerful. Largely eschewing the black metal genre's predilection for blasting beaten speed and distorted overkill, on "Kvass" KAMPFAR goes for a largely mid-tempo approach that is incredibly mesmerizing. The six songs all exceed six minutes in length and suck the listener in with captivating melody lines and hypnotic tempos that of a band like FALKENBACH.Whereas some groups of the Nordic-inspired black metal ilk drown the compositions in non-traditional instrumentation or clumsily stumble over the blend of styles, KAMPFAR sticks to a basic approach that revolves around guitar, bass, and drums. The style is folk-influenced to be sure, but the album's majesty lies in its deft subtly and smartly selected accents. Whether it is a sprinkling of piano on the comparatively harsher and driving "Ravenheart" (the only one sung in English), the light choral harmonies on "Lyktemenn" and "Hat Og Avind", or the manner in which the drumming is in-the-pocket and fluid at once, the band's sense of balance is masterful. There is much in which to lose yourself on "Kvass". In fact, it is best to digest the album in one sitting for it is the experience as a whole that is most satisfying. Beyond the hypnotic qualities of every single song, the arrangements are expertly structured. A case in point is "Til Siste Man". The pace rises and falls with a charming melody juxtaposed against Dolk's cragged black metal vocals. At the five-minute mark a melancholy chord is introduced and a slow walk into the depths of despair ensues for the remaining two and a half minutes, light piano key strikes heard along the way. On "Hat Og Avind", a kind of galloping pace seamlessly picks up speed during the tune's closing section. The folky main riff on "Gaman Av Drommer" is, dare I say, alluringly bright, and yet there are moments of speeding black metal ferocity. The album's longest track at almost 10 minutes, "Ildverden", twists and turns its way through several tempos and textured avenues, everything from speedy raw black metal to majestic folk marches.
The wait was a long one for KAMPFAR fans (seven years to be exact), but the final product proves the band has not lost a step, and has further refined its splendid mix of roots-based Norwegian black metal and folk/pagan flourishes. Though the songwriting is full of depth and tunefulness, on "Kvass" the creation of mood and atmosphere is paramount. Impressive.