SVARTTJERN - Towards the Ultimate (AGONIA Records - LP 2011)
I must admit that I’ve been really waiting to hear this LP, ever since I’ve found the news about Agonia Records and Svarttjern singing the pact and about the second full length of this Norwegian act, which came out last year (2011). It’s all due to the fact that I really liked “Misanthropic Path of Madness”, Svarttjern’s debut LP, which was simply a devastating piece of Norwegian black metal cult. All news about “Towards the Ultimate” were very promising and finally I purchased the vinyl copy of it. I took a chance to buy a red vinyl version, which is limited to 100 copies only and I must say that I really like the layout for it. The front artwork looks very impressive and so does the rest of the design for “Towards the Ultimate”, including the inner sleeve, with those live photos of the band, all coloured in red. Cool! The red vinyl is also pleasant to an eye, so I was pretty sure that the music will be killer also!
And… well, I am sorry to say that but I feel really disappointed with “Towards the Ultimate”! I have no fuckin’ idea what happened to Svarttjern, but their second LP isn’t even half as great as the debut and as overall I feel it is just mediocre piece of black metal. It seems like the band has lost everything what was their main strengths on “Misanthropic Path of Madness”, which is very unfortunate and disappointing. I feel bored, when I listen to this new LP, it seems like there aren’t any songs, which – just like “Code Human” – would just fuckin skin me alive, the whole album is very powerless and goes by without much effect.
While the production of “Towards the Ultimate” is not so bad, although I liked the sound on “Misanthropic Path of Madness” more (because – I say that again – it simply was more energetic and violent), then the songwriting seems to be the biggest problem here. Svarttjern just didn’t compose as many killer songs this time, most of them tends to be very mediocre and not as strong, and at the same time the playing isn’t really influential and do not cause any effect on me, as the listener. I don’t feel devoured by the atmosphere of this LP and often I’m rather annoyed that the band just couldn’t reveal some more passion, anger and hatred in these sounds. I said already that the album is much less powerful and devastating that the previous one, but what else can I write, when the music on “Towards the Ultimate” seems to be slower and often even more melodic than the stuff from “Misanthropic Path of Madness” and the riffing is often so dull that it’s almost forgettable? They (Svarttjern) may have putted more accents on the atmospheric side of the music, but that caused the lack of fury. The previous LP was a whirl of aggression and possession, this one is much more tempered and often just begs for something more.
OK, there are some faster and also more killer songs, like the opening one, titled “Breathing Soil”, which is relatively good track. The riffing in it is venomous, furious, but it also builds a freezing atmosphere. There are also some more generally great fragments on the album: like “Aroused Self-Extinction”, which finally starts like a decent ejaculation of violence and negation of morality, with a real storm of blasting drums and slashing riffng. With these two tracks they do remind me bands like Enthroned, Tsjuder or Ragnarok… Another worthy songs would probably be “Through Madness and Sanity I am...”… But these are just exceptions. “Towards the Ultimate” is dominated by such tracks as “Hellig Jord” for instance, which on its own isn’t so bad, but when you have more songs in very similar vein, then you start to fall asleep and that’s not something, what I am really happy about. You’ve got “Hellig Jord” and then “Superior Growth” is also slower, so it quickly gets monotonous. Sure, “Superior Growth” speeds up somewhere in the middle, but it doesn’t help in providing more powerful energy, especially that “I am the Path, part II” or “Desolate Predictions” are also in this same category of songs. So, my impression is that not only neither of these songs distinguishes with something exceptional and killer, but they all also sound terribly similar and monotonous… they’re not so bad on their own, but when compiled together into a 40 minutes long album then they start to bore me a little. From all those slower songs I think I like “For What Blooms Without Lust” most; it has great classic black metal riffing in the beginning, it builds freezing atmosphere, only to speed up in the middle and finally finish everything with the most melodious riff on the whole LP. But the effect is much better here than on the rest of the album, so I can say that I like this track a lot.
Conclusion is only one – damn big frustration. And I’m quite surprised that this is yet another release from Agonia Records, which disappointed me. I mean there were albums from bands like Necrovation, Mr Death and now also Svarttjern, which aren’t that terribly bad, they’re fine, but my expectations from them were much, much bigger! I don’t know why, but I do prefer “Breed Deadness Blood” over “Necrovation”, “Tetra Karcist” over “Obsidium” and now I sincerely must say that I like “Misanthropic Path of Madness” much more than “Towards the Ultimate”. Is this Agonia Records’ curse or something? Anyway, the impact the debut had on me was much, much bigger, while this second LP is annoyingly average and in many places also forgettable… which is sad. “Towards the Ultimate” will catch the attention of some people, personally I still have some faith in this young band, but I hope that they can reveal something far greater in the future.
Standout tracks: “Aroused Self-Extinction”, “Breathing Soil”, “Through Madness and Sanity I am...”, “For What Blooms Without Lust”
Final rate: 68/100