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Review: Kjeld - Ôfstân

Label: Heidens Hart
Year released: 2021
Duration: 55:46
Tracks: 9
Genre: Black Metal

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: April 15, 2021
Reviewed by: Micah.Ram
Readers Rating

Rated 4/5 (80%) (2 Votes)

From the moment I saw the cover art to Kjeld's second full-length album, Ôfstân, I knew I needed to check this band out. I first listened to the first track on the album called "Betsjoend" on YouTube and was wildly impressed with the band's opener and decided to take a deep dive into this one. Does the music match the awesome cover art? Yes, it does.

A quick sampling of the first track can show that this album has a treble-heavy sound quite often with plenty of tremolo-picking and blast beats. But there are also many other elements present. In this first track, the band also shows other sides of Black Metal with an absence of blast-beats and an emphasis on atmosphere, unique chord progressions, presence of space within the drum tracking, and moments of Pagan Black Metal-inspired melodies and progressions. The latter element is one of the qualities within this album which I appreciated the most while listening and helped me connect this release at times with the sounds of Finland's Havukruunu, whose last album was easily a top five album of 2020 for me, and I'm not even a deep fan of Black Metal. The Pagan Black Metal influences are also strongly present on tracks such as "Asbran" with the use of semi-clean vocals which have an almost shouted quality to them and "Falske doop" with its Folk-influenced melodies. Other than that, the unique and often beautiful chord changes which are often different from what one might expect are unique moments that make the album so special.

The most standout moments on the album for me are on the title track, "Ôfstân," mostly due to the fact that the track has such a dynamic middle section which gives way to an incredibly emotive ending section which features some of the most beautiful tremolo-picked harmonies I've heard on a Black Metal album in a while. The vocal delivery here, as well as at the end of the first track, is impassioned and deeply impactful. The drums are also worth a mention due to how many different grooves are shown throughout the song, each performed excellently and in a way that really amplifies the rest of the instrumental work. His blasting is so clean and precise that it helps improve the clarity of the tremolo picking. In general, one could not listen to his work and miss the fact that he is an incredibly musical drummer functioning within a style of music which does not require such musicality. Other standouts in my mind are the following track "Asbran," which also is a host of a large variety of soundscapes, and the epic "Falske doop," which has a surprise slow section in the middle with a repeated lead riff that is eternally lodged in my memory. The drums are once again a big highlight within this track, especially impressive with all of the fills and patterns maintained over frequently constant double-bass and blast beat sections. The drumming is especially fun two to three minutes near the end in a section in which the band plays in a constantly changing meter before settling on a meter of five beats per measure which features a beautiful and endlessly catchy sprawling tremolo melody that soars above. Between this track and "Ôfstân" this album has proven that Kjeld are top tier in their songwriting ability.

While I will be honest and admit that I did not like the change of atmosphere in "Wite fokel" as much as I wanted to, it also has a unique charm and is certain to appeal to many. With Ôfstân, Kjeld have really crafted a Black Metal album which should not be missed, especially for people who have an affinity towards Pagan Black Metal, given how much of that sound is present here. This album has been a difficult one for me to put down to lay down a review, but after nearly fifteen listens it was time. This could very well end up on my year-end list and hopefully it will for others too.

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