The reinvention of Black Metal is a wheel that never stops turning. New acts are held aloft as the next big thing or hailed as the arrival of a new demonic dawn. You learn after a while to take some of these bold declarations of war with a pinch of salt.
However, when the endorsements are forthcoming from such preeminent students of the genre as members of both 1349 and DarkThrone perhaps it really is time to sit up and take notice.
“I have seen the future of black metal, and its name is Mork. Halden Hellfire!” states 1349’s giant frontman Seideman. The towering singer is a notable contributer (bass) to Mork’s third studio album Eremittens Dal, the other being Darkthrone’s very own bassist Nocturno Culto.
Mork arrived on the scene about a dozen years ago, created as a side project by Thomas Eriksen. The first album did not appear for almost 10 years but its arrival did see Mork subsequently peppered with plaudits. In fact it was viewed in some quarters as one of the sharpest additions to the extensive back catalogue of Norwegian Black Metal in many years.
Mork’s bond with Darkthrone in particular is a strong one and the union has certainly done Mork’s profile no harm, Fenriz at one point bestowing on Mork the honour of ‘Band of the Week’ through his radio show. The alignment with Darkthrone’s label Peaceville completes the marriage of like-minded brethren.
So Darkthrone fans should not need asking twice to embrace new Mork release Eremittens Dal, which is also in part inspired by some of Burzum’s epic cold soundscapes. The dark macabre album artwork is a pencil drawing of Jannicke Wiese-Hansen, who has also seen his skills utilized by Burzum and Satyricon.
Fortunately Eriksen has loosened the reins on what was always intended to be a solo project. Mork have already performed live throughout Europe and parts of North America, with musicians recruited to enable this to happen.
If ‘Hedningens Spisse Brodder’ opens things with conviction, the album’s second track ‘Holdere Av Fortet’ is even more invigorating, a throttling testosterone packed riff whipping things up nicely, Mork emitting timely paced euurrrghs to great effect.
Dimmu Borgir’s Silenoz proffers vocal support on two tracks and is on record as saying that listening to the album felt like being taken back 30 years or so to the original black metal flame throwers.
The start of ‘Forsteinet I Hat’ sounds as though you’re about to embark on a funeral procession and the plodding rhythm that envelopes the cold soundscape merely reinforces that deathly atmosphere.
The album’s title track opens with unnerving classical contours which dissipate once Mork explodes into life showing about as much warmth as a deep freezer packed with raw meat. Vocal chords are stretched more thinly than a cheap loaf of bread and the raging fires that light the room are full of Satanic imagery and intent.
‘Likf¢lget’ is not one you’d want to stumble across in a spelling test so best to just get lost in this furious torrent of black metal cuts. There’s a great u-turn quite early on which sends things spinning in a whole new direction and at times Mork’s mastery of the groove is jawdropping.
Much slower is the hypnotizing almost purely instrumental track ‘Et Rike I Nord’ which has Burzumesque qualities, a simplistic and yet captivating rhythm that almost chokes up your airwaves with its stifling atmospheric manoeuvres. When vocals do come late to the party, they are in the form of cold spoken sentences.
Penultimate piece ‘M¢rkets Alter’ maintains a steady satisfying throb throughout until it veers wildly off the rails on the home straight when an almost monastic choir adds a spiritual flair to this otherwise tortured testimony.
Mork have done a great job here and album closer ‘Grav¢l’ is a fitting finale, opening with Sabbathian like church bells and a frosty riff pattern that pierces into your skull while simultaneously setting your teeth on edge. It’s a bit like a wild cat clawing at an old style school chalk board. The vocals are deathly purposeful growls and after a slovenly start the toms kick in to up the ante once more.
There’s a lot of Black Metal out there and sorting the good from the bad and the ugly is not always easy. Eremittens Dal certainly comes in the first category and Mork have produced an album that you’ll be happy to revisit as long as the moon is in the sky.