Saturday, February 11, 2012

Review: Ljå - Til Avsky For Livet

A Norwegian black metal album that sounds more Swedish, and somehow becomes a really great album because of that. Ljå is a name that my eyes must have skimmed over countless times, yet the three letter Norwegian translation of 'scythe' didn't leave much of an impression. Not until recently; as it has actually become a new favorite. One of the most exciting and genuine takes on the Scandinavian sound of anything released after the turn of the millennium. To loosely describe Ljå's sound as the best traits of Taake, Sorhin, Kvist, and The Black fused in a way that is at once gloomy yet brutal is at once true, yet too-generalized. Ljå's sound is a natural product of equal parts Swedish and Norwegian influence, with some subtle idiosyncrasies that distinguish it from more generic marriages of Scandinavian styles. Though the frosty, melodic leads that characterize the Swedish trademark seem to give this album's sound tremendous strength.

At first listen, it seems as if Ljå's sheen of Swedish influence is interwoven with the moods and general atmosphere found in some of the DSBM (yes, the term is very dumb, but at least you'll know what I'm referring to here) scene. For instance, the gloom of Strid and Nyktalgia seem to seep through periodically, yet Ljå's music is original enough to keep itself from becoming too saturated with that particular sound. There's no denying that there is also definitely some thrash and heavy metal influence here - when the band resorts to the low end of the fretboard, the Hellhammer/Frost spirit really comes out. Through a keen tradeoff between icy tremolo leads and blocky, thrashy riffs, the band creates an album that in many ways hearkens back to what 'black metal' meant in it's early stage. It's nearly something from 1987 transplanted in 2006. And this album's fusion of past with present creates something familiar and original, but ornate enough in composition to really move the old-school influence beyond what it originally may have been. Progressive work, where subtlety is a strength, and specious philandering of ten-plus influences is never abused for the sake of proving a point. The songs being well-crafted, developed works, are strong alone in songwriting. It's how there's a peculiar sensitive aggression burning within these ten songs, that really gives this a fiery spirit all its own.

The musicianship is tight and the percussion is quite pronounced in the mix. The drum work is often fast and blast-happy - perhaps also being the single largest connection with the Norwegian sound on this album. The juxtaposition of the speedy, death-metal styled drumming with the pseudo-complex melodic lead guitar isn't anything terribly original, but it Ljå have a way of doing it where the mood approaches mystical yet brutal. It's sombre and dark without being morose. The thrashiness is the reason for that; rejuvenating their highly nuanced style of composing, where there is a well-crafted playoff between riffs, hooks and chilly high-note leads. The songwriting isn't anything too out of the ordinary; just the mere mix of influences and styles here creates seemingly conventional songs that are actually progressive and original; each one with an identity and character. No songs goes undeveloped here; it's a refreshing, creative display of new dogs doing old tricks well. One of the finer black metal releases of modern times.


  1. Sorhin? Kvist? Norway AND Sweden? hellhammer??? this sounded like exactly my kind of thing. i'm listening, and gods, it is. great one dude.

  2. i've had the song "satanic rites" by hellhammer stuck in my head for days and days now. i don't know why, but metal is just so fucking catchy to me for some reason. if i listen to any of darkthrone's first three black metal albums, i'll have "katharian life code" or "to walk the infernal fields" stuck in my head for months.

    i'm also kinda drunk right now. i don't think thats related, but i tend ot post online when i've consumed large amounts of scotch with friends.

  3. Not as grim and true as Melt-Banana

  4. I must've listened to this album three times in a row after reading this post. I could easily see this becoming one of my new favorites. Cheers!