You find yourself in a forest. Fog creeps around your shins and a biting wind lashes your naked chest. You hear music in the distance and as you slowly approach the faint shimmering sound you see a grim man dressed in black clothing seated behind a wooden table. He beckons to you and asks “what’ll it be then?” You realise you are actually just in a dingy record store. The air conditioning is turned up way too high and you are not really sure why you have your shirt off. This metaphor serves as a representation of my experience with Murg. To elaborate, although my initial impressions of the album were favourable, the more I listened the more generic the album felt. To be fair I actually enjoyed Strävan a fair bit.
I get thrilled at the chance of listening to a new atmosphere-laden black metal album so when I first put this release on I was infatuated with it right away. The murky and washy texture of the music, the clean interludes, the dismal tropospheric layering of blast beats and vocals competing for the title of the least clear sound in the mix. At first, this record has all the hallmarks of a classic. Though on repeated listens I found the album wearing on me and although I enjoyed all of the tracks on Strävan, none of them stood out to me as being incredible. The album is also not all that heavy. It holds a rather ambient quality and always feels like it is just a bit far away from you. I would not say this is a bad thing, but it is not as in your face as some other more traditional black metal acts.
Production-wise the album is typical fare. Everything in the mix is quite indistinct and the sounds all spill into each other like an impressionist painting, which is one of my favourite elements of ambient black metal such as this. The vocals sway between being barely audible to sort of audible. The sound of cymbals create a constant wash of high frequencies but are generally overpowered by the huge guitars. And the kick drum is a soft thudding texture in the background while the snare has the sound of a metal table being struck. By the way, I like the mix, if that wasn’t clear. For a lot of other acts this kind of washy mix might not work but for this type of metal, it is a necessity to achieve appropriate grimness.
As mentioned earlier I wouldn’t say any specific track on the album stands out to me, though overall, the album gives me an uplifting feeling despite all of the dark descriptive words I use. The fact that Strävan does not sound all that heavy is something that contributes to this positive and generally empowering aura the music exudes. On the whole, I would suppose this album promotes a zealous message that can even be seen reflected in the title of the album Strävan or “striving” (or at least my interpretation of it). Though black metal is a genre wrought with politically questionable themes, the impression the band has given to me through interviews is that they hate everyone equally. They do not release their lyrics but from reading a bit about them I am sure their lyrics are suitably nihilistic, cataclysmic, and naturalistic.
To those who can’t get enough atmospheric black metal in their lives, this album is definitely one to check out. Although, on the whole, I have enjoyed this album, I don’t feel that it particularly stands out among the myriad of black metal albums that come out every day. A good listen, but not unmissable.
* * * * * *
You can acquire a digital copy as well as physical copies (CD, LP) of Strävan on Murg’s Bandcamp page. Follow the duo on Facebook to stay in the loop on new developments from them.
Leave a Reply