Album Review: Ravnkald - The Pagan Resistance
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings
To say the history of Ravnkald is interesting is an understatement. Formed in 2011 but separated by continents, one member in Norway, the other in Mexico. Undaunted the project released their debut record Solsnudag in 2012. Since then, there has been a steady flow of releases, all featuring different guests, with the music being cited in Pagan Black Metal circles as innovative and gaining interest from across the globe.
Move forward to 2021 and the project’s latest release, The Pagan Resistance has arrived. Featuring the 2021 line up of Lord Marganor – drums, Agöth Sterpe – guitars, synth and vocalist Martyr Lucifer of Italian act Hortus Animae.
‘The Pagan Resistance’ is complex, a real assortment of styles and tempos. ‘As Cold as Venom’ changes from driving riffs and cruelly delivered vocals to doom filled cleans and slower, almost folk style elements before an even more chaotic change directs the song back to the punishing harder edge. It’s a multiple contradiction in one song but don’t let it detract.
The intro ‘Heilög Vötn’ segues into the first real black metal of the record, with the imposing and dominating ‘Nerthus’ that opens the gateways to this intricate and at times almost flamboyant release. There is so much contained in each track that it demands repeated plays. The cross over between the Bowie style low key delivery, the soaring cleans and the dominate black metal horror vocals works neatly throughout. The production is almost as low-fi as might be expected, with the title track particularly basic and retro in sound, despite the addition of sound effects of battle.
The music is in a constant state of evolution, with mesmerising effect. ‘The Wind Blowing on the Last Day’ is one such example, with harrowing keys and frantic drumming combining with electronica style playing, growling death roars and an almost disco beat. How much of this is programming I’m not sure, but the sound is rather artificial at times, which I suppose is the progressive advancement that the band want, although they kill this song with an unforgivable fade out.
Melancholic, atmospheric, at times bizarre but always intriguing, Ravnkald aren’t a band I’d often spend much time listening to. I guess you are either devoted to the genre or not. Whatever the point of view, this is a record that I certainly felt a desire to play again. One of the most compelling releases for some time.