Reviewed: January 2021
Released: 2020, Dark Essence Records
Reviewer: Lee Carter
Ask anyone with even a passing interest in metal to offer a description of black metal and you’ll likely get at least one person mention the word “dark”. And you would usually expect most black metal records to carry an overarching sense of darkness and oppression in their sound. Regardless of the presence or absence of any corpse paint, it’s always had this menacing quality to it, yet the biggest surprise that awaits anyone that comes across ENDEZZMA’s third release, ‘The Archer, Fjord & The Thunder’, is an impressive sense of brightness and levity.
That’s not to say that the usual oppressive gloom of the genre isn’t present, far from it. But it’s rather a delight to hear brighter production that almost borders on punk in its makeup. Hell, the opening moments to the album’s title track almost sound like a punk track with it’s stomping drum beat and sliding riff – ENDEZZMA may go for that “raw and grand” black metal approach, but on this display they certainly bring the fun. See, this is where “raw” works best in black metal – a slight grit and edge to proceedings without beginning to sound like a detuned TV.
From the opening moments of “The Name Of The Night Is A Strong Tower”, it is immediately apparent this is not like your average, run-of-the-mill black metal record. There is verve and life about it; where the track moves from double-bass and tremolo riffs to a half-time bounce, you cannot help but sit up and take note. It might not meet with those trve black metal fans’ discerning standards, but then anything even vaguely intelligible would be met with scorn. Where ENDEZZMA particularly succeed on their third offering is providing the listener with variety to their listening experience. You have the bright, punk-like opening as above, and then the malevolent and despairing “Formless & Void” that ramps up the more atmospheric side to their sound. Tremolo riffs with melodic inflections and a keen push-and-pull in tempo provides a tangible sense of flow, and one that repeats elsewhere across the record.
Then you have your more traditional black metal offerings, such as the furious and delightfully-titled “Garden Of Heathen”. Despite the more straight-forward and “trve” sound, the rawness and utter fury, along with the rather thrash metal-influenced solo trade-off, makes it stand out from the glut of contemporaries out there. Similarly, the tremendously polite “Open Your Eyes & Stab Out The Sight” brings more of that straight-up “die!” aggression that you would normally associate with punk, but it has found an equally accommodating bedfellow in its darker Norwegian peer. That aggression, wrapped up in Norway’s finest musical export, makes for a deliciously compelling and a welcome addition to your New Year’s Eve 2020 playlist.
That ENDEZZMA have managed to find a way to shed some of the arguable pretensions associated with a genre that carries as much history, tropes and expectations as black metal, should be commended. Couple this with making a record that sounds raw, bright and aggressive without using broken recording equipment, and varied to offer an exciting listen, and you have a pretty damn good album to behold. What ‘The Archer, Fjord & The Thunder’ lacks in theatrical majesty it makes up for in straight-up, honest-to-Satan (or whoever) cut and thrust without getting bogged down in the mud. Bring the noise.