This is not your father's black metal. Pär Gustafsson — the heart, soul, and mind of BERGRAVEN — has opened up the floodgates of creativity to bring you "Dödsvisioner". The album is a dark and oppressive (though not so much depressing in, say, a XASTHUR sense) and penetratingly dynamic work of what can only be generally termed black metal. It is black metal in feel, and also takes black metal cues in the form of vocal patterns and snippets of guitar work, but that only tells a fraction of the album's tale. This is a disc that goes beyond the genre-pushing works of bands like DEATHSPELL OMEGA and NACHTMYSTIUM and into a world that an act like ULVER began to explore some years ago (although only in general terms, creatively speaking, not necessarily stylistically).
Spending time with "Dödsvisioner" is like entering a door into another dimension, one in which modern conceptions of extreme metal (or cutting edge music) are transcended by aural bleakness that is at once frightening and beautiful, and sonic excursions into the darkest recesses of the mind. With track lengths clocking in at an average of around seven minutes, an ominous mood seems to hang in the air like a thick fog as the album plays through. Melodic, yet chilling, guitar lines morph into doomy riffs and varied guitar patterns (including some very cool and very cold sections of light, even cosmic, picking). There are even sections of fat and gnarly riff-based grooves not typically associated with black metal (e.g. "Kansla Av Livets Nasta Skede"). The bass work is very active; the audible four-string is thick and flowing, peppering the compositions with some fantastic rumblings (check out "Ondkall"). Vocally, the style employed is basically a mid-range, throaty black metal one, yet not necessarily traditional either; the patterns and changeups are effective as well.
"Dödsvisioner" is not an album from which you pick a favorite track and push "play." Either you experience it as a whole or you wait until you're in full-throttle head fucking mode and take the full trip. And yet, no one should think that the disc is an exercise in meandering pablum or needless esoteric noise. These are in fact songs with, at least to some degree, recognizable and relatively cohesive structures. It is in the way that Pär assembles his works that makes them musically challenging, yet ultimately able to be digested completely.
In another collaboration with Sweden's Total Holocaust Records, Hydra Head seems to be developing a taste for the creative end of black metal. One can only hope that the U.S. label will continue delivering spellbinding efforts like "Dödsvisioner".