The everlasting universe of thingsFlows through the mind, and rolls its rapid waves,Now dark--now glittering--now reflecting gloom--Now lending splendour, where from secret springsThe source of human thought its tribute bringsOf waters--with a sound but half its own,Such as a feeble brook will oft assume,In the wild woods, among the mountains lone,Where waterfalls around it leap for ever,Where woods and winds contend, and a vast riverOver its rocks ceaselessly bursts and raves.
"Mont Blanc" by Percy Shelley
Is it too early to have an album of the year?* Maybe - but, I'm willing to put money down that come December of this year (and every year) I'll still be spinning Vemod's Venter på stormene and getting lost in it like it's the first time I've heard it. Loyal readers might recall me talking about this one somewhat recently and how excited I was with only the first track released. I can't recall the last time I obsessed so much over one song from an album that hadn't even been released yet and I can't recall a time when my expectations have been met and further smashed by the eventual album.
As for Vemod they are a two-piece Norwegian act who play an otherworldly style of black metal that they've dubbed "dark ethereal metal." I can't argue with the title, as it really nails their sound (even though I'm not the biggest fan of bands - especially in black metal bands - naming their own sub-genres). Tracks are long, winding narratives featuring a couple of key riffs that are trance inducing and super catchy. Easy comparisons could be to Emperor and their first LP, Germany's Klage who they've shared a split with and Horna when they push past the 9 minute mark. Vemod, however, trumps these bands simply because of the engrossing atmosphere of Venter på stormene.
Opener "Venter på stormene" is obviously the strongest point of the album. One beautifully catchy and darkly serene riff repeats for what seems like forever only to be broken up with an equally magical riff while, distant in analog luster, pulsating drums, synths and epic growls round out the body of the song. The second track, "Ikledd evighetens kappe" is similar in style and approach and relies on repetition and the building momentum to spiral into an even more climactic riff and eventually be broken up with a somber clean guitar section which further leads to a new climbing riff. "Altets tempel" is a tranquil breath of ambiance created with distant organs and trickling water-like synths. The album is rounded off with an instrumental "Å stige blant stjerner" which melds clean picked guitars atop surging double bass drums and hazy guitars. I wish it wasn't instrumental as E. Blix's vocals do offer a nice tangible quality to their illusive sound, but it's not a deal breaker.
The band makes a point to mention the production and execution of the album and it's strict use of analog tracks rather than digital. This method gives such life and warmth to their sound and the production is perfect. Yes, some things are drowned out, but it's purposeful and sounds so good that way.
Venter på stormene is a sparse yet rich, album that transcends normal listening. If spun at the right mood, I find myself losing track of time and becoming completely engrossed in it's winding structure.
*While this was officially released December 4th of 2012, the vinyl has still yet to been made, digital tracks were only offered this past week and for this release I feel comfortable claiming this to be a 2013 release.