Review Summary: With Djevelmakt, Kampfar solidify their position as one of Pagan black metal's more powerful acts.
Albums like Djevelmakt
are often unique, not for the fact that the corresponding band mixes a few folky instruments in with the most vicious of black metal-inspired song structures, but for the way in which every ounce of emotion and passion is fed into the production of such an album. For a band such as Kampfar, who this year celebrates its 20th anniversary since forming in Fredrikstad, Norway, making such an album hasn't been as easy as it should. Despite being eclipsed by their Norwegian peers, Kampfar are still relevant in a sub-genre which some argue has now become too pretentious for its own good, for Djevelmakt
, if anything, is a strong confirmation that the band are fully ambitious and confident for the oncoming future.
For those who have never heard Kampfar, the band have a strong, very fluent balance between epic pagan soundscapes in the same vein as Moonsorrow and the harsher black metal style of Enslaved's earlier years. Listening to Djevelmakt
once through strongly supports that description, of course, but with more frequent listens you can feel the band's effortless power feeding through, resulting in a sound which is more than just sheer music. At first glance, the album does seem to favour more of a black metal-influenced sound than one would expect, but somewhere hidden in between all the fist-pumping riffs and breathtaking drum rhythms are a multitude of melodies and harmonies which somehow tie each of Djevelmakt
's eight songs together. The impressive yet sometimes disjointed opener “Mylder” unfortunately is a harder song to get your head round than any other on the album, if only because of how the band seem to separate Pagan musical melodies and the black metal attack forcefully. However, even if such a flaw is too big to ignore, you can still forgive the band for the way in which ambition and confidence is protruding from the music itself. The maniacal “Swarm Norvegicus” and its softer successor “Fortalepse” are both better examples of this, making for a challenging albeit powerful take on epic, harmonious atmosphere.
Pushing the harsher black metal sound aside, the Pagan/folk instrumentation really succeeds well here for the most part. Along with “Mylder”, the mid-section of the album itself features three songs introduced via soft, melodic though slightly progressive keyboard/piano interludes, and this works well in setting a standard for the rest of each respective song to follow. Within moments the listener is hooked and swept into a vast array of black metal soundscapes, but one thing that never seems to lose itself in the moment is the Pagan side of the band's musical style. It seems to be there until the album ends, and the melodies hidden deep within “Blod, Eder og Galle” and sweeping closer “Our hounds, our legion” (Incidentally the only song on the album which is in English) bring every instrumental aspect to a thunderous halt. There's even a bit of progressive/experimental sound going on in “De Dodes Fane”, the mid-section favouring strange, eerie keyboard overtones but never overstaying its welcome either.
The main flaw here, though it really does depend on personal preference, is the vocals. The harsher style naturally takes its influences from the standard black metal sub-genre in its most traditional form, and it goes without saying that if you can't stand those sort of vocals, it will be hard to get into Djevelmakt
. Likewise, the cleaner vocal edge is unfortunately unnecessary, and sometimes, as in “Kujon”, is really unsettling to a point where even the epic instrumental performance begins to crumble under its own weight. This isn't bad, just a warning to those who have never listened to this sort of musical style before.
has an awful lot of ambition and promise about it, particularly because everything sounds so organic and powerful. Despite its few flaws, which may or may not put you off from listening to it altogether, Kampfar's sixth full-length re-affirms the band as one of the more underrated bands in such a fusion of sub-genres. This may be the album where they break down the underground barrier and move on to bigger and brighter things, but for now, Djevelmakt
should be enjoyed for what it is.