Released: 2014, Nordvis Produktion
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Sweden's STILLA created themselves a major challenge when they wrote their debut “Till Stilla Falla” - an incredibly well-crafted debut capturing the essence of vast, icy Scandinavian landscapes and the all-encompassing cold winter's bite brings in its combination of blistering drumming, cutting guitars and menacing vocals laden with keyboard atmospherics. That was last year, this is 2014 and the Nordvis Produktion group don't rest on their laurels as they produce another fine album.
There is a simple majesty to “Ensamhetens Andar” - it is a bleak and atmospheric brand of black metal; one that concerns itself more with the emotion and landscape painted than outright grim, kvlt blasting. There is ebb and flow; light and shade; something of which is demonstrated cover-to-cover - “Vandring Utan Spår” and “Hjärta Av Sten” are perfect examples of this; beginning acoustically before breaking out into a cold fury, bending this way and that with the current of the song. Purists may consider the progressive nature and winding song lengths blasphemous (hehe...) to black metal's origins but there is a greater spectrum covered by STILLA on-hand here and it is joyous listening to it.
The keys on offer here are delicious – it isn't on an epic, grandiose scale to be bothering the likes of DIMMU BORGIG or FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE, but adds a cold layer atop the buzz-saw guitars. Take “Tillägnan” as a prime example of this. There are times where the winding nature of the song does become a little tiresome, as riffs repeat and drone on. The guitar tone probably doesn't lend itself to this, but regardless you can find yourself wondering where the next section is going to appear. Perhaps there could have been a small bit of trimming the fat to allow for maximum punch to each track, but even so the atmosphere has been further enhanced. Try not to imagine running through icy, northern woodland whilst listening to the album's title track – a challenge to any fan of black metal with bleaker and more progressive leanings.
Musically, there is some wonderful talent to behold. Mr. Marklund knows when to rest up and add colour to slower, ominous passages and when to get his head down for blasting. His cymbal work, particularly when using the ride, gives relief and light to the passage (especially when blasting away). Andreas Johansson's bass is another unsung hero – where Pär Stille tremolos out arpeggiated chords, Johansson is adding colour and depth below (see close “Skuggornos Dop” for case-in-point). This is all topped off with Mr. Petterson's scorched howl that acts as a narration for this frozen walk through Sweden's woodland – it is competent and a fine focal point when all around is like a blizzard.
“Ensamhetens Andar” will please many a black metal fan and anyone that looks for a flowing, kinetic album of atmospheric music – aided by a clear yet unpolished production, it allows the band to continue from where they left off with their excellent debut. Occasionally straying into the realms of riffs droning on for too long aside, this is hard to fault. With only a year between releases, STILLA have stuck while the iron is hot and it shows. Do your ears a favour and give this a listen.
Review by: Lee Carter