Sometimes it’s better not to know. I don’t know anything about Fyrnask. I’m sure there was a press release with the CD when it was mailed to me, but even if I did read it before throwing it away (which I can’t guarantee), I’ve forgotten what it said. Glancing at the lyrics in the very nicely printed booklet, I can tell that some of the lyrics are in German, but the majority are in Swedish. I don’t read or speak German, and I’ve been considering studying Swedish, but I haven’t really gotten started, so whatever they’re on about is totally lost on me. I can hazard a guess or two, of course. Based on the album art, which includes photos of desolate Nordic landscapes with woodcut-style patterns laid over them, and a photo of some bones laid on a rock, the odds are good that they’re talking about nature, its primal forces, implacable and relentless, and man’s powerlessness in the face of it…stuff like that. The front cover is a drawing of a man with what looks like golden hair pouring from his eye sockets in endless waves; the back cover depicts another man with the same substance (whether hair, or smoke, or something else entirely) roaring forth from his entire face, a sort of reverse Pentecost.

The music has roots in black metal, but incorporates long droning passages as well. The drumming and the guitar work are typical of the genre—distorted, treble-heavy riffs and relentless pounding with little variation. The occasional fill or snare barrage will draw attention to itself out of sheer novelty. The vocals, too, are standard, a bloody-throated shriek intended to sound unhinged and terrifying. They don’t, if only because so very many shriekers have come before. “Extreme” vocals, whether the howling of black metal or the guttural roars of death metal, have outlived their usefulness. I find myself more and more drawn to bands whose singers use what are referred to as “clean” vocals, who explore a broad emotional palette rather than attempting to sound like demons, or enraged bears. Even a hoarse punk rock shout has a humanism lost in the work of those who depend on throat- and diaphragm-testing vocal stunt-work to make their points. There are other vocal approaches explored on Bluostar, though; one track features a spoken-word interlude, and all-male choirs pop up elsewhere. Sometimes this sounds Monty Python-ish, but at other times the liturgical effect is powerful.

Bluostar is best heard in full; the individual songs don’t leap out from the album, and I suspect they’re not meant to. It’s an hour of music divided into eight sections that surges and retreats, then attacks again, and finally dissipates over the course of a short, untitled (and unlisted) instrumental ninth track. And while whoever’s involved clearly enjoys employing the sonic tropes of black metal, they’re not dependent on them—there are enough surprising musical elements present that this is almost post-metal, if that term didn’t already describe an existing (and largely unrewarding) genre. Similarly, the mere fact that the bandmembers, however many of them there may be, don’t feel the need to include photos of themselves anywhere in the CD art, and certainly not posing in the woods in spiked leather and clownish face paint, speaks to their artistic seriousness. If you’re at all inclined to check this album out, do so in the same uninformed, sounds-only spirit I did. Let it do its work on you without your own expectations getting in the way.

Phil Freeman

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