Review Summary: A sophomore masterpiece cementing the band's place among screamo royalty.
Minus the outstanding single 'Du' and the very occasional split feature, Vi Som Älskade Varandra Så Mycket remained agonisingly quiet since the release of 2014's 'Den sorgligaste musiken i världen'. After such a long wait, the fear develops that the sophomore - if there even is one - may not live up to the lofty expectations that naturally come from a full-length debut as effective as theirs.
Fear not. Five years on, the follow-up Det Onda. Det Goda. Det Vackra. Det Fula.
has not just matched any expectations. It's outright left them in the dust.
The Swedes' brand of glistening, post-rock-driven screamo is very much a continuation of the cold atmosphere on the debut, but their approach to doing so has undeniably changed. The sole absolute stalwart is Arvid Ringborg's fracturing, harrowing cry, the sort of primal sound that triggers that part of your brain into wanting, NEEDING emotional release through any means viable. Outside this, however, there's a definite shift away from the spidery, rambunctious guitar melodies of old, and in terms of straight-up catchiness there is
less to choose from here - the refrain of 'Kontakt' is the closest thing we get here to a hook. However, the trade-off is that Det Onda…
feels more direct than its predecessor, with almost nothing that meanders any more than necessary. Obviously crescendos and climaxes are all part and parcel of Det Onda…
's makeup - twinkly screamo and post-rock's developmental sensibilities are inexorably linked, for better or worse - but there's a purpose imbued within each segment that goes far beyond the regular, monotonous rise-and-fall of the style's tidal cycle. Sometimes, as in opener 'Kärleken är död', a distinctly sinister mood permeates throughout; elsewhere, as in 'Men livet går vidare', the relationship between the build-up and release (punctuated by Ringborg's impassioned scream) can prove too much to bear.
In terms of track-thru-track composition, Vi Som Älskade have been clever, and in doing so highlight perfectly that their music is far from a one-trick pony. The hardcore energy which 'Sioux Falls' manifests itself in is engrossing by itself, but sandwiched between the melodrama of 'Men livet…' and the understated start of 'Hjärtats förlorade slag' further cements its position as a fantastic, refreshing change of dynamic. Penultimate offering 'Ensamhet urholkar själen' takes a single, simple melody and builds on it to what could be a perfectly bittersweet closing chapter, only for 'Vilse i pannkakan', the band's heaviest song to date and a disturbingly aggressive outing by their standards, to reduce 'Ensamhet…'s misty-eyed mirage to rubble. As such, Vi Som Älskade… command attention throughout, each piece strengthened by its surrounding parts.
I do wonder, probably not without merit, about the perceivable foolishness of giving an album such as Det Onda...
a nearly immaculate appraisal, it being a screamo album (a genre relying heavily on emotional outpouring, with a strong lyrical focus) in Swedish (a language this very South-of-England chap is only anecdotally versed in). Indeed, I have it on good authority from a native speaker that the lyrics have improved since Den sorgligaste musiken i världen
but are still a little hammy at times. Maybe being able to properly understand would alter my perception. Nevertheless, I shall say this - no single album in the last three years has had quite the impact of this one on me. I have cried and have sat in complete oblivion to the world around me, absorbing each moment as cathartic gospel. If Det Onda. Det Goda. Det Vackra. Det Fula.
is what I take from this decade as its last gasp, then it's a perfect way to say farewell.