Reviewed: March 2018
Released: 2018 Agonia Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
With their new – if somewhat familiar – singer in tow, Norway’s Susperia are getting back in action nine years after their their last album, Attitude. Bernt “Dagon” Fjellestad, who had filled in for former vocalist Athera (who’s health has been an issue since his heart attack in 2009) onstage on several occasions before officially taking over as frontman in 2015, finally gets a chance to show his stuff and brings a new (or actually old) dimension to the band’s blackened thrash ‘n roll sound.
Formerly with the power metal band Guardians of Time, Dagon offers a rangier, more nuanced approach than Athera’s burly shout, even as the band takes its music in a more aggressive direction that harks back to its earlier days. The contrast, and the change, takes a little getting used to.
The Lyricist opens with the aptly titled “I Entered,” which shows that things are going to be quite a bit different right off the bat. As ex-Dimmu Borgir drummer Tjodalv leads the charge with some of his fleetist, most athletic drumming in ages, Dagon introduces himself with the full breadth of his growl and howl vocals, giving the song an almost Iced Earth-like grandiosity. “Heretic” takes a blackened turn, echoing Dimmu’s Spiritual Black Dimension era (which is when Tjodalv’s tenure ended) with sporadic blast beats and Dagon’s shriekier vocals countered by the majestic sweep of Cyrus and Elvorn’s guitars, something that continues on the title track. “My Darkest Heart” then veers into goth power balladry studded with evocative, mournful cleans and a wall of dense, martial riffs, which is then followed by the even doomier, more despondent “The Day I Died.”
This is a far cry from the rock-based, meat-and-potatoes chunkiness of Attitude, a sound the band had been building on – or, rather, stripping down to – over their previous couple albums. Indeed, the Lyricist pretty much abandons that approach altogether. The songs are much more involved and adventurous, with the signature propulsive chug of late now scattered about and used to accent the surging complexity of tracks like “Come Alive” or “Void.”
But the core of the band, which is rounded out by bassist Memnock, has been together for 20-some years, and manages to navigate the shift of direction with but a few bumps along the way. The voice-overs and backing chants/effects make “Feed The Fire” rather tedious, even irritating, and the dramatic power clean vocal passages are a bit overdone, especially on the yowly “Whore Of Man.”
Still, it’s encouraging to see a veteran band make good use of a versatile new weapon like they have in Dagon. It’s obviously injected some new energy and daring in Susperia, which is just what the band needed.