The wait has been long, like an eternity gazing at the stars looking for a long-lost spirit, but the day has finally come. That's right, Vemod finally has a new album. If that sounds a little grandiose, take a listen to The Deepening and you'll hear why there's so much to celebrate.
I first found out about the band from Dayal Patterson's book, Black Metal: Into the Abyss. In the section about Vemod, he describes the band as specializing in "chilling and otherworldly compositions that don't merely sweep up the listener, but rather shriek through them with the force of a particularly potent Nordic storm." And that is certainly true of the band's first album, Venter På Stormene, which made a major impression on me when I first heard it. Here was an atmospheric black metal band that kept the grit and power of the original style, and yet had this incorporeal quality that set them apart. Also, good luck listening to "Å Stige Blant Stjerner" without getting totally pumped; the synchronization of the drums and guitars is just irresistible.
And so the band continues to set itself apart on The Deepening. The guitar tone is similar, but given more weight this time. It has a warmer, enveloping quality, whereas the previous album featured a more orthodox, cold guitar aesthetic. Likewise, the vocals are delivered in a familiar manner, but are more present in the mix, and have slightly less reverb casting them into the heavens. Overall, the album has a cleaner sound, allowing different moods and textures to rise forth than what you'd normally hear on a black metal album.
This allows the band to transcend the limits of black metal itself, something it always sought to do, and progress toward what they call "dark ethereal metal." It's fitting, therefore, that the band now resides at the headquarters of this style: Prophecy Productions. As the band takes the next step in its sonic journey, it's begun to hew closer to the style of bands like Empyrium, Dornenreich, Alcest, and Agalloch (especially Marrow of the Spirit). It's a world that allows them to take their earlier inspirations to new and interesting places.
And from the first full song on the album, "Der guder dør," it's clear that the possibilities are vast and fascinating. The song, clocking in at more than 13 minutes, does take a few listens to really sink in. Listen to it a few times, then leave the album alone for two weeks before going back to it. Allow the music to leave traces in your subconscious, it'll pick up where it left off when you turn it on again.
"True North Beckons" is more immediately captivating, almost cinematic in execution, as if the filmmakers for The Northman should have waited until this song came out so they could use it. And it could have been pared with the next song, "Fra drømmenes bok I," an a capella track that recalls moments from Ulver's Kveldssanger.
Oh man, there's that infectious double-bass again on "Inn i lysende natt." If "Å Stige Blant Stjerner" was the night-time instrumental soundtrack, this song is the music for the bright day that comes next, full of mystery and potential. The album then closes on its most ambitious note with the 16-minute title track. The song has everything: flowing guitars and drums, lots of dramatic rising and falling, harsh and clean vocals, tempo changes, harsh moments, peaceful moments, and even some synths at the end.
As I am a greater acolyte of straightforward black metal, my preference will always be for Venter På Stormene, as it showed what the band could do but still anchored it much more strongly in the cold ways of old. However, I cannot deny the power and grandeur captured on The Deepening. (Maybe they'll release an expanded edition that includes super-raw rehearsal versions too. That'd be sick.)