Scandinavian black metal horde CURSED 13 has some unfinished business. They could still use plenty of tightening up, but at least there's a dedication to chaos that prevails throughout their sinister album "Triumf" which will appeal to their longtime fans who have been waiting for a proper full-length to emerge.
"Triumf" covers a hefty period of time between 1998 and 2013 with many of its tracks intended for a never-released album entitled "And Hell" along with redone demo and EP tracks from CURSED 13's early years. Band leader Heljarmadr (also of DIABOLIC LUST) relays in CURSED 13's biography that he spent some time in jail in the span of CURSED 13's doings that saw the band's single for "I Love Cyanide" spread worldwide in 2005. After recording a lot of material, Heljarmadr and drummer Dimman released a 2009 split with DOMGARD and many of the remaining songs intended for "And Hell" remained dormant until now.
"No Return" starts "Triumf" on a high note with an evil tide of riffs pocked by evocative loops of train wails and later, clacking slats amidst the swell of a winter's gust. All of it lends an astute shivery cadence nobody's ever seemed to fit to employ in metal before. The rugged tempo and menacing creep of "No Return" thus establishes a haunting tone to "Triumf" that's quickly ripped to shreds by the fast and slashing "Dead and Gone". Lead guitarist and bassist Maugrim's insane solo on this track hits such shrill notes it sounds like high-pitched radio waves.
After these two balls-out compositions, "Triumf"'s middle territory rolls through more stripped-down affairs such as "Death 'n Roll", "Fralst av Eld" and another version of "I Love Cyanide". As clunky as "I Love Cyanide" may be, the choppy rhythms and barren spaces between drums and guitars work as the track speeds up and slows down. In both extremes, the song huffs like a beast instead of choking outright. Ditto for the banging "Nar Marornar Kallar" and the militant snare strikes breaking into "Fralst av Eld" that sets up a pretty killer breakaway and trance-filled outro.
Some of the most accomplished songwriting comes on the slithering and malevolent "Seductress" with its well-structured doom and black grooves setting up a succinct and extensive guitar solo. Afterwards, "Requiem/Victory" varies its tempos between mid-tempo march and chuffing deliberateness. The drums are a bit uneven until the later sections where Dimman throws out sharp sets of rolls and then carries the song home on a measured crawl.
The sliding electro shuffles of "Vrede" may be out of the norm for black metal, but they effectively allow for a terrific sequence of layered guitars that languish on the bottom and clout overhead until the song hits an organic trail allowing Dimman to take over with a steady pound that almost drowns the rest of the band in the mix. The synths creep back in-between Helharmadr's outraged snorting and plugged-in soundbytes of throng cheering, but those synths operate subversively in a GOBLINS-esque fashion it makes "Vrede" the best-written and produced track on "Triumf".
For black metal purists, "Triumf" is mandatory listening. Sloppy it may be at times, there's heated integrity running throughout the entire project that makes it perversely compelling. It serves as reminder that no matter how polished and streamlined black metal's become over the years, it belongs underground. That's hardly a rip.