Sarke - Bogefod - (7/10)
Published on February 27, 2016
Formed in 2008 as the brainchild of Khold and Tulus drummer Sarke, his eponymous project has bolstered top quality veterans over the years. Although the first album showed Sarke playing all instruments, the current incantation sees Sarke performing bass with Steinar Gundersen (Satyricon, Spiral Architect) on guitar and Anders Hunstad (Satyricon, Tulus) on keyboards, all fronted by the enigmatic Nocturno Culto of Darkthrone on vocals. The band seems to be a rather polarizing entity, with those who either vehemently loathe the stripped down, no frills approach they take or, conversely, those who seem enamored by the simplistic, pulsing darkness their sound exudes.
Three years after the fairly well received Aruagint, Sarke returns with their fourth full length album, Bogefod. Released in March of 2016 through Indie Recordings, Bogefod is heralded as the band’s “grandest and most dynamic album.” A concept album, based on the tale of Torolv Bogefod from the Norse Eyrbygggja saga, which is, more or less, a classic zombie story. Those lured by the promise of Sarke churning out an album full of epic, Viking-tinged black metal should turn around now as Bogefod sounds just like a continuation of the sound they’ve been churning out for almost a decade. That’s certainly not a bad thing, depending on which side of the fence you sit on, because if you dig that pulsing, Celtic Frost tinged darkness of Sarke’s early catalog, you certainly can’t go wrong here.
The music is slow moving and dirge-like, offering sharp guitar riffs alongside a constant cascade of pulsing bass and percussion. Nocturno Culto’s vocals are as acerbic as ever, harshly spinning the tale of the ancient undead. Though it’s Sarke’s (the musician) show, the most prominent feature of the band’s sound has come to be the undulating, almost rollicking style of riffing, and that continues here, but Bogefod does see a few minor twists and turns in their sound. The most obvious twist is the tendency for the music to get sucked into a slower moving din that sounds something like off kilter atmospheric doom. Serene movements featuring acoustic guitars and the inclusion of chamber strings and female vocals see Sarke reaching for a more mature sound, but these moments come across almost as an afterthought, as things, thankfully, move past the slower sounds and back into the more furious and angry style.
Bogefod sees Sarke trying to reach past the primal surge of the early material, but that very attempt sees them beginning to lose what made those early albums so special. Sure, most of the album exudes a similar type of minimalistic darkness and swaggering coldness, but those more mature attempts at adding majestic and serene soundscapes just seem to hold them back. This is by no means a bad album, but during those slower moments one just waits for the anger to come back; ancient Viking zombies or not.