The Danes in SVARTSOT made quite an impression on the Folk Metal scene in 2007 when their debut album “Ravnenes Saga” was released. Energetically supported by Napalm Records, the band mostly received positive reviews for their Folk Metal based firmly on Melodeath. In December 2008, all the rest of the band left the frontman and lead guitarist Cris Frederiksen alone in SVARTSOT, due to differences of opinion concerning the sound. Frederiksen quickly gathered a new line-up however and “Mulmets Viser” shows the same main strengths and weaknesses as its predecessor.
The main sound is Melodeath with a strong folk influence, mainly consisting of flutes and whistles, added to it. The tempo is usually rather high and the drums play a prominent part. They have a thundering sound to them and drums and bass are a bit deeper and rougher than in other Melodeath-based Folk Metal acts, such as ENSIFERUM. The reliance on the Folk instrumentation is strong and the guitars mainly serve as complement to the pipes and flutes, rather than having an own dominant role. Last but not least, one vocalist with a deep Death growl (Claus Gnudtzmann) has been replaced with another (Thor Bager). That and the incredible unintelligibility of Danish make sure that very little of the lyrics slip through to the listener. On a more serious note, the vocals have become a little less varied, as I feel that Gnudtzmann threw in some more high-pitched growling here and there, which are missing now.
The best thing about SVARTSOT still is that they are good at creating catchy songs. “Ӕthelred” and “Havfruens Kvӕd” are headbangable and heavy with a catchy main melody and an impressive execution. Listening to SVARTSOT is a fun experience. There were however a few more memorable songs on “Ravnenes Saga” and they sounded less similar. Lack of variation, in several ways, plagues “Mulmets Viser”. Many of the songs follow the same structure and the parts that work well often sound more similar, while the good songs on the last album were more diverse, even if that album was no wonder of variation either.
More importantly, SVARTSOT rely too heavily on the Folk instruments. I have always enjoyed when bands in this genre let the guitars do a substantial part of the lead melodies. SVARTSOT sometimes let through folky guitar leads and that usually sounds great (for example short bits in “På Odden Af Hans Hedenske Svӕrd” and “Laster Og Tarv”), but mostly the whistles, flutes and mandolin play constantly and after a while that gets tedious. For this streamlined concept, the album also contains too many songs. This is something that SVARTSOT need to develop, as songs like “Lokkevisen”, in which the guitars are given the main melodic responsibility don’t work so well for them.
This is a solid release that gives Folk Metal fans what they want and it works thanks to some very catchy songs. Future releases must however incorporate more variation and cut down on the total reliance on the Folk instruments or the fans will likely lose interest.
(Online May 30, 2012)