Black metal is possibly the toughest subgenre of metal to get into. With the corpse paint, blood and sheer intensity occasionally comes haunting, melancholic and gorgeous melodies which leave you addicted and hungry for more. In their five years as an active band, Kvaen, have managed to create a blend of ferocious blast beats to perfectly crafted guitar melodies. All of which is evident on The Formless Fires, an album packed with atmosphere and top-notch musicianship, which is what black metal was always meant to be.

This album opens with the first single, the title track. Five minutes of gruelling drums and guitar work. The solo in this track fits perfectly as it is both technical but also almost folky. As soon as the folky bridge ends, like a smash in the face the pre chorus returns, only for the song to end with a guitar driven fade-out. The first of many.

The third song, ‘Tornets Sång’ is the surprise of the album. It is quite a shock to find such an experimental and catchy song this early on in the album. The chorus on this song is the most memorable of the album. The clean backing vocals really help this song stand out, not only on this album, but in black metal as a genre as usually clean vocals are non-existent in this type of music. The ending, which is another fade-out disappoints as at this point, with three songs in, the endings are starting to become predictable.

The second single, ‘The Ancient Gods’ follows, and it suits the album perfectly. Again featuring some more folky elements, this is a song where the guitars truly shine, and especially during the fade-out. The melody is one of the most gorgeous on this entire record.

‘De Dödas Sång’ is another haunting song. Talking about the suicidal ritual which was depicted in Midsommar, yes, that horror movie. This is another song which features very subtly placed clean vocals which is another unique touch to an album filled with original touches for a black metal album. The acoustic guitar is an awesome touch for the ending. Because it is another fade-out, this one being an acoustic, elevates the song when compared to the others up until this point.

The final song on the album focuses on the drums. Jacob Björnfot, the mastermind behind Kvaen has enlisted former Amon Amarth drummer Fredrik Andersson to not only record the drums, the only thing Jacob could not record, but to also play these parts live. Fredrik shines throughout this album with his technicality and speed which most drummers would wish to have, but it is on this song where the drums sound the clearest.  Another surprise is that this song has a solo performed by the iconic Chaq Mol of Dark Funeral. There is another feature on this record earlier on, but this is the one that had me on the edge of my seat. Yet again though, this song ends with another fade-out. This one filled with blast beats and more amazing guitar work.

Overall, this album has everything a black metal fan would love. High pitched shrieks from Jacob, top notch guitar work, and drums that are as brutal and ferocious as they could be on a black metal album. Usually, black metal albums are not the greatest sounding albums in the world, but with The Formless Fires, Jacob has proved that black metal can sound just as good as the music itself. With a full live band ready, and touring, these songs are not only black metal songs, they are also odes to Norse mythology. Something that should be preached in the same way some black metal bands like Dark Funeral openly preach about Satan. Proving that black metal does not have to be evil. It can be about anything, as long as it is haunting.

Kvaen: The Formless Fires – Out 21st June 2024 (Metal Blade Records)

– The Ancient Gods (Official Video) (