A lot of the time, when evaluating a record and contrasting it from others, it comes down to mood. Each album release comes with its own set of feelings created by the sonic atmosphere. When it comes to a band like Kampfar, the operative words have always been mystery and adventure. And this continues to be the case on Til Klovers Takt.
Kampfar occupies an interesting place in the history of Norwegian black metal, forming in 1994 and sitting comfortably as a second-tier band in their much-storied scene. They're the kind of band you get into once you've discovered and explored the big names and are ready to go one layer deeper. Stylistically, they're the band you get into after you check out Enslaved, Windir and Helheim, and think "More of this, please."
I first learned about them as a college radio DJ, when they dropped 2008's excellent Heimgang, and was a big fan of 2015's Profan as well. If you like your black metal to lean on the folklore and less on the Satanism, but still maintain a high level of quality and consistency, Kampfar is a great band to follow.
On their latest effort, the band presents six songs that feel almost like chapters in a cinematic series on Netflix, filled with tales of demons, wolves, and dark forests. And if this album was the soundtrack, I would totally watch that series.
The opener, "Lausdans Under Stjernene" gets the album off to an epic and dramatic start, displaying the band's ability to weave together interesting combinations of riffs and progressions — all delivered with black metal energy and ferocity. The album then moves into "Urkraft," a song basically made to make huge crowds pound their fists.
The middle of the album is occupied by "Fandens trall" and "Flammen fra nord," two absolute rippers that recall post-Monumension Enslaved but trim away some of the more proggy elements that can take some listeners out of the music. Additionally, there are a lot of moments that remind me of the sound Mayhem crafted on Daemon, albeit with less of an occult vibe.
The album closes with two eight-minute-plus tracks that take the band's ambitions to their logical conclusions. As you listen, you really can imagine yourself flying through the air with the Valkyries, looking down at the fjords and mountains below. That said, how you feel about these songs is contingent on how much you dig the band's style and how patient you are with what they've got going on here.
While this isn't the most earth-shattering black metal release of the year, it maintains Kampfar's place in that world. It shows a band that continues to refine and hone their abilities, combining evocative riff-work with a variety of vocal techniques and rhythms that give Kampfar its special home in the skies and across the seas.