Reviewed: [March 2021]
Released [2021 The Artisan Era]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
While “technical black metal” is often used to describe more esoteric, sometimes impenetrable acts like Deathspell Omega, Imperial Triumphant, Krallice or even Batushka, Switzerland’s Stortregn would certain fit the general tag while offering something with genuine teeth. Though not quite as accessible as, say, Norway’s Keep Of Kalessin, Stortregn’s potent blend of black metal ferocity, death metal brutality, progressive dexterity and scale and shrewd melodies is considerably easier to grasp than the unorthodox sound – and in some cases visuals – of those noted above.
The band certainly has plenty of balls. The quintet’s fifth album is seriously heavy thanks to its careening guitars, galloping rhythms and Romain Negro’s flame-throwing, multi-tracked vocals, all brought together in a thunderous mix. The sound here is huge and all-consuming, save for Johan Smith’s classical guitar passages that introduce the album and are sprinkled throughout – sometimes as interludes, sometimes thrown in amid the clamor, as on the “Grand Nexion Abyss” or “Moon, Sun, Stars” for dramatic contrast.
Smith and Duran Bathija, who switched from bass in 2016, are a formidable tandem, and demonstrate some impressive chops throughout with their ample lead tradeoffs and harmonies, dog-fighting trems and bob-and-weave, turbo-charged riffs, occasionally accented by bassist Manuel Barrios’ jazzy forays. Agile, surging rhythms power the music here throughout with drummer Samuel Jakubec steering the way like a Formula 1 driver.
But sometimes too much of a good thing is, well, too much. And while Impermanence is more compact than 2018’s Emptiness Fills The Void, its “Multilayered Chaos” – to borrow one of its song titles – goes on for a bit too long in the opener “Ghosts Of The Past,” “Cosmos Eater” or the closer “Nénie,” each of which clock in at about 7 minutes, and loses steam. That said, the super-complex “Multilayered Chaos” or “Timeless Splendor” work better by corralling some of the expansiveness and weaving in enough melody and hookiness to balance out the technicality.
And even with its indulgences, Impermanence is a powerhouse album. There is nothing flighty, coy or obtuse about it, as Stortregn deliver the goods with gusto and never forget the “metal” aspect of “technical black metal.”