2022, Reviews

Karmanjaka 🇸🇪 Gates of Muspel

Band: Karmanjaka
Title: Gates of Muspel
Label: Grind to Death Records
Release date: 11 February 2022
Country: Sweden
Format reviewed: High-quality Digital Recording

I didn’t know Karmanjaka before, I must admit I was curious about this album because of the impressive painting in the cover (representing perfectly the album title, indeed, it seems like an open gate to the realms of fire). All that red, the menacing clouds, iced mountains in the background… That was enough. Well, and also because it was labeled as Black Metal, and I’m always ready for this genre.

First thing I must say: “Gates of Muspel” is not only a Black Metal album. It’s not “typical”, it’s something bigger, with a lot of details and diverse elements that turns these 47 minutes into a delightful listen. What impresses me the most is the guitar work: it takes control of the 8 tracks in so many ways! This instrument stands out because there are a lot of stunning melodies, great riffs and solos that turn the album into something special, not a “standard” one; you get trapped in those guitar tunes immediately… unless you are deaf. The two men at six strings are Tengil and Orm and they both share the duties of playing melodic clean leads, which are plenty in this album, something I’m not used in Black Metal. As I said… nothing typical.

The songs structures are really original, this makes the album even more rich and diverse. When listening to “Ancient Aeon” for the first time, it surprised me the two last calmed minutes, in contrast with the energy of the previous; it’s like the calm that follows a storm, a moment in which you can let your mind wander freely and enjoy every note.

There’s a lot of epicness in this album, just listen to the majestic “Draug”: it starts with the sound of some kind of horn and drums playing a marching snare, and then guitar enters with that melodic riff; it’s simply beautiful! The combination with dark and raspy vocals creates a unique atmosphere, drums providing a triumphant feel, they are played skillfully and with great use of cymbals, that fits perfectly here. Percussion in Karmanjaka is played by Grond in a very diverse way: from blast beats to marching snare, and some slower and epic passages (like at the end of “Ancient Aeon”), and did I say epic? Well, I think it’s an accurate word I can use to describe this album, and feels great finding something like this!

Amongst The Waves” is another track that deserves to be highlighted: it starts with the sound of rain and a distant storm, then the guitars enter softly, and they are in charge of the whole song, be it with some clean leads or playing fantastic melodies. Special mention to the bass (played by Karm) here, perfectly audible and with an important role of creating some dark ambient in contrast with the clean guitars sound. The pace of this song is slower, drums are not steaming here; instead, they provide a great atmosphere and only march a bit faster towards the end.

Anti-Godess” is another track distilling strength, with a really catchy chorus: “Give me your knowledge, teach me your magic…”; gives me goosebumps, the way these words are shouted along with those guitars in the background! Vocals all through the album are harsh and grim, and sometimes there are some choruses here and there. When this happens it’s just brilliant, nothing that can be named as “soft”, I can assure you this! Skallagrim does a great vocal work here, it’s just like his voice adapts to the different situations that are exposed through the songs, and it can sound dark and menacing but also it can express a victorious feel.

Fenrir” is the closing track and it runs for almost 10 minutes, sung in Swedish; it’s a song that blends together the impressive guitar work with some rhythm changes, dark and raspy vocals, and those drums… oh if you do the effort to listen to it separately from the rest, you’ll get how talented Grond is!

I know I can feel a bit carried away by feelings when it comes to Black Metal, after all it is the genre that can totally annihilate my senses and, minutes later, put all my pieces together again. As I said, this album goes beyond Black Metal, and I can only recommend you to go for it if you want something really creative, unique, emotional and brilliantly played. For me it’s 9,5/10 Sílvia

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9,5/10 Epic Storm
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