Kampfar - Djevelmakt - (8.5/10)
Published on January 26, 2014
Djevelmakt: Because Kampfar made you do it.
For 20 years now, Kampfar has remained one of the most consistent black metal bands around, and few others come to mind when I try to expand the list. From the blustering folk melodies of Mellom Skogkledde Aaser to the modern, straightforward approach of Mare, Kampfar has certainly made a transition of sorts but they have never made a terrible misstep as everything in between has been very listenable indeed. After spending a fair amount of time with the newest effort, Djevelmakt, it’s become apparent that the album is both a distillation and a progression of everything that has made Kampfar such a success.
The clean, crisp production from Mare is carried over, which helps give the music a polished sheen. With the lower guitar tuning and heavier distortion, the sound is denser with less emphasis on the raw energy that defined the band so expressively up until Heimgang, and the whole piece sounds much richer and full-bodied than Kampfar has ever sounded before. There is a continued emphasis on melodic rhythms and traditional black metal riffs that, unlike Mare, rest on a noticeably steeper incline in quality. This is carried out in near equal measure with Kampfar’s folk side so one senses a connection to the past while the band moves forward with their ever expanding repertoire.
With that said, Djevelmakt is still very much a Kampfar production. It sounds very familiar yet very new; refreshingly brooding, richer in character, and mysteriously exciting, if any of that makes sense. To explain a little bit, “Kujon” switches between bluesy and folk riffs in an undulating trance-like procession, while Dolk’s chanted vocals (complete with all the enunciations of the Norwegian language) add yet another layer to the track’s ritualistic quality. “Mylder” has a ghostly flute presence and pseudo-sung chorus that inflict a cutting sense of trepidation and eeriness, again quite ritualistic and strangely pagan in nature so in that sense the past is still very much alive, just in a different incarnation.
Interestingly, it’s this quality that tends to emphasize the percussion, or perhaps it’s the other way around, as the album seems to have a pulse of its own at times, such as the mounting tension that both “Swarm Norvegicus” and “Our Hounds, Our Legion” build with their rolling, throbbing drum patterns, repetitively rhythmic guitars, and yet more chanted vocals. Indeed, there is a palpable level of the otherworldly and enigmatic to this album, as though incantations are being recited and an ancient force consequently summoned to follow Kampfar’s pagan biddings.
Djevelmakt just might be Kampfar’s most ambitious effort to date and it succeeds in a way that’s not too dissimilar from the band’s prior performances. It’s a redirection of their heritage and interests towards a path that runs a markedly more sinister course, perhaps one that resonates accurately with man’s true nature. In this sense, the translation of the album’s title, “devil power,” is indeed quite appropriate.