Djevel from the dark past

DJEVEL: Ormer Til Armer, Maane Til Hode

Release year: 2019
Label: Aftermath Music

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ll need no explanation of what I’m referring to when I say “90’s Norway”. Yes, of course: black metal from the golden age of the Norwegian scene. That’s what Norwegian Djevel bring to the table with their sixth album.

The line-up of Djevel isn’t quite an “all-star” line-up, but there are familiar names here. Drummer Faust, he of Lords Of Chaos infamy, is of course familiar from Emperor and Thorns. Vocalist/bass player Mannevond has served time in Urgehal, Faustcoven and Koldbrann. Only guitarist Tron Ciekals CV is slightly shorter, the only band some may be familiar with is Ljå. So, to reiterate, not quite an all-star cast, but certainly musicians who’ve created material of worth in the past, and who bring the kind of credibility to Djevel that one might justifiably have some expectations.

And if one has them – well, they will be met, and then some. The short of it is, quite simply, this: Ormer Til Armer, Maane Til Hode is a great album. Whilst stylewise it is very traditional, some might even say generic, Norwegian black metal, qualitywise it’s leagues above anything generic. The promo sheet says Djevel’s black metal sounds “like it was crafted in the 90’s”, and this is certainly true. And to be more precise, in the earlier years before virtually every band started to go experimental, avant garde and – in my opinion – for the most part, sour. Djevel keep things straightforward, black and grim.

So yes, this means the list of references is obvious and luminous: from Darkthrone to early Emperor with less synths, and… well, you know, fuck it. Just get a list of 90’s Norwegian black metal acts, remove the most synth-heavy acts from it, and start ticking away. Because this sounds like Norway, this sounds like the 90’s, this sounds like the heyday of norsecore. But not in a way that feels like a nostalgia trip and nothing more.

To be sure, the instant familiarity of Ormer Til Armer, Maane Til Hode helped endear the album to me early on. But that very same thing runs the risk of turning an album into a novelty, into a short-lived trip down memory lane. Ormer Til Armer… is nothing of the sort; I’ve been spinning this album some ten times prior to writing this, and I’m not anywhere close to getting tired of it. Why? Well, superb songs, great atmosphere and powerful sound are a few reasons.

The stylistic choice is without doubt entirely conscious. Still, just about the only thing I can criticize on the album is the lack of originality. And even that is a very minor gripe, because in doing so extremely well what they do, Djevel have created an album that deserves to be a late entry into the canon of classic Norwegian black metal. It is testament to the quality of the album that despite its long running time, a hefty 56 minutes, it never gets dull, boring or repetitive.

The best thing to come out of Norway in years? I’m ready to say this album is it.

4.5/5

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