Reviewed: May 2022
Released: 2022, Noble Demon
Reviewer: The Flâneur
Swedish black metal is a bit of an odd mouthful. Definitely not one that carries on the same reputation as Norwegian or American black metal. Or Swedish death and power metal, for that matter. Night Crowned’s upcoming EP Rebirth of the Old doesn’t reinvent the wheel. It’s not genre-defining and it won’t elevate Swedish black metal to the popularity of Swedish death metal. Nevertheless, it’s a great little release full of melodic perfection and epic grandiosity.
Rebirth of the Old is actually a curious mixture of melodic black metal, melodic death metal, and progressive metal. The latter is primarily observed in the clean vocal sections of the second track Rex Tenebrae, with vocals provided by Christian Älvestam, formerly of Scar Symmetry. This is, in fact, the English version of a track of the same name present on Night Crowned’s 2021 self-titled opus Hädanfärd (Hädanfärd translates to Night Crowned).
In fact, two further tracks on Rebirth of the Old are English versions of pieces on Hädanfärd – the third Shackled (English version of Fjättrad) and the fourth A Fate Sealed in the Grave (English version of Ett gravfäst öde). The first piece, Born of the Flickering, is the only new track on the release. A fine track, it is the most black metal sounding one on the EP. The keys and the blast beats create a beautifully sinister atmosphere, and the general flow is rhythmic and melodic.
However, as lovely as this EP is, I have some misgivings about bands compiling recordings with English versions of previously released material. It’s understandable in the context of pop music (though, I’m still salty that Tarkan’s Şımarık became more popular in English). But, it makes little sense when done in extreme music genres, particularly black metal. While knowledge of the lyrics is desirable, it’s not always necessary (unless one is trying to assess how controversial the band is). It can be argued that the only black metal tracks which necessitate the crowd joining in on the chant, beyond screams of ‘Hell‘, ‘Satan‘, and ‘War‘, perished with the death of first and second wave black metal.
I find it, in fact, more enjoyable when the lyrics are in their authentic language. After all, black metal isn’t about catering to the masses – it’s about hatred, despondency, and sometimes even beauty. It’s, primarily, a solitary, idiosyncratic genre. Catering to the masses is simply odd and performative. What’s really the point anyway? Do bands genuinely think their music needs to be translated into English to be enjoyed more? If I really wanted to know the meaning of the lyrics, I could whizz up Google Translate. After all, nowadays lyrics are all online more often than not. It is quite possible that my opinion is influenced by me being a foreigner myself. And, while I’m not of a patriotic persuasion, I do still think there’s a unique beauty, nay defiance, in producing music not in English.
Despite all of the above, I don’t think this is a bad release at all. In fact, it’s actually very good. The pieces flow very well together and are skilfully written, performed, and mastered, and they easily show that Night Crowned is composed of superb musicians. Their fans will be genuinely happy with this EP, and newcomers will find it a convenient gateway to the remainder of their discography. It’s surprisingly easy to listen to for a black metal release – it’s not a case of: “if only the vocals were different” or “why did they have to make the quality so pristine?”. No, it’s just right. Yet, I couldn’t enjoy it fully because, to me, a record of translated pieces lacks some of the soul and originality of a completely new release. Of course, I do have to acknowledge that Rebirth of the Old was compiled during a worldwide pandemic, which would have made writing and recording new material a much more complex task. But, I’d also like to argue that fans, especially of metal, don’t need a new release every year. We can wait for many years if that means the new one will be worth it. I’m still waiting for Necrophagist’s.