Bergraven - Dodsvisioner Review
by Mark Hensch
Dodsvisioner is the Swedish rendering of the phrase "Visions of Death." Death (and the various opinions on it) is amongst the darkest yet most elegant of human concerns; Dodsvisioner seeks the illumination of dying, death, and the afterlife. This vast undertaking is performed by one Bergraven, a lone Swedish visionary following in the footsteps of Burzum's Lord Grishnackh, Xasthur's Malefic, and Leviathan/Lurker of Chalice's Wrest. Though he is not the first solo artist in the BM underworld, Bergraven has taken its underpinnings and transformed it into something wholly fresh and new; the choking haze of most depressive BM is gone, replaced by a stark aura of piercing sound. To boot, Bergraven weaves music rich in darkness, evil, despair, loss, anger, and redemption. In the same way acts like Deathspell Omega or Blut Aus Nord have brought intelligence, esotericism, and mystique back to black metal, Bergraven too defies previous convention and creates something quite alien to familiar tastes. Unique and majestic, Dodsvisioner is a tapestry of dark metal that shrouds the frailty of human existence---that which will always succumb to death.
This sense of futility against the end of life manifests itself right away in the grand epic that is "Doemde." "Doemde" is at first little more than an incantation, followed by ghostly howls that soon turn into a Danny Elfman-influenced choir of moaning wraiths. A chest-caving riff now ignites the album proper, and "Doemde" is a mix of crushing, bleak Viking riffs laced with flitting trails of ethereal melodies. Lunar emissions of flitting melodies dance with a steady pulse of double-bass, the entire equation adding up to pulverizing, sheer force.
"Av Saknad Slacker Jah Ljuset" is a different kind of epic, the minimalism it pertains so bare it is unsettling. A depressing melody wavers in the depths of empty Abyss, the whole thing akin to a thin trail of light in a blackened tunnel. The stormy "Ondkall" is thus much more jarring, an uncoiling bass thump mixing with guitar tones twinkling like cold, emotionless stars in the night sky. Switching back-and-forth between slamming fury and hollow, guard-dropping clean chords, Bergraven's slick guitar melodies provide an excellent accompanying piece to the man's absolutely feral bark. At one point, the song breaks down into a wistful clean melody before exploding into a wall of blackened doom so fiercely towering one can't be helped but listen in awe. An elegant solo towards song's shadowy fade-out sounds like Burzum's ice-fire juxtaposed with the saintly elegance of later Agalloch, and trust me, it makes for one Hell of a potent combination...
At least until "Kansla Av Livets Nasta Skede" shows up. "Kansla" goes right for the jugular with a swinging, broadsword of a riff, the kind of stuff Bathory might have written in an alternate universe. An expertly placed tremolo-melody gleams brilliantly amidst all the chaos before the song stops on a dime (or should I say a single string of pearly notes, exquisite in their misery?) and things are shoved back into high gear again. "Dev Svarta Angstens Essens," meanwhile, features guest vocals from Mannevond of Ureghal/Koldbrann/Nettlecarrier fame and in a powerful song itself. Moody washes of sound coalesce into a military cadence of thundering but patient percussion and gigantic chords. "Det Man Med Sjalen" is a tangled maze of lush, eerie sounds and subtle menace. It is sparse and ambient, imbued with the ghastly melodicism that defined later Burzum. "Ekon Av Bikt" is a masterpiece of darkness; it first whispers with wispy, reverbed chords before firestorming into memorable, effortless hooks and surreal time-signature changes. Unpredictable and mystic, the song is like some unholy fusion of ISIS, Tool, and recent Enslaved. As a fan of varying degrees to all three, I love it. Wrapping things up is "Doende (En Avslutning)," which takes a patient approach to closing Dodsvisioner. "Doende" starts with soft, wooden chords plucked slowly over a dreamy, warped version of the "Doemde" melody. It makes for a very trippy, circular feeling, and definitely messes up one's perceptions. It soon transforms into a soul-obliterating, endless crawl of dirge doom, black as pitch and just as suffocating. This atmosphere of intense oppression works perfectly in conveying the theme of death; listeners will feel absolutely buried alive by this epic music.
To close, Dodsvisioner is both one of the most interesting concepts and one of the most interesting albums I've had the pleasure of hearing in quite some time. Bergraven is unlike anything I've ever heard (and face it, I've heard many different bands) and definitely knows how to create timeless, dark music on a scale bordering on the cinematic. It is very rare when I can describe an album as both pristine and diabolical, but Dodsvisioner is it. In fact, I can't help but think that perhaps this is an intentional paradox, with death being portrayed in all its ugliness but with a little beauty thrown in too. The few reviews of this I've turned up are every bit as glowing as mine, and my guess is that Bergraven are destined for much success. Here's hoping that this read has left each and every one of you just dying to check out Dodsvisioner; this is one "Vision of Death" pretty much anyone can enjoy!
2. Av Saknad Slacker Jah Ljuset
4. Kansla Av Livets Nasta Skede
5. Den Svarta Angstens Essens
6. Det Man Med Sjalen
7. Ekot Av Bikt
8. Doende (En Avslutning)
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