There’s nothing quite like being battered around the head by an album when you put it on for the first time, and Norwegian black metal project Blodhemn’s debut full-length album “Holmengraa” delivers that exact sensation in a full-on, blackened swipe to your senses.
Essentially a one-man band – that man being Invivus – Blodhemn’s brand of black metal mayhem is the old-school variety – i.e. very dark and very violent – although it must be said that the audio quality of the recording is pretty damn good for a debut black metal album. Of course, there is the obligatory creepy intro – wouldn’t be the same without it, right? – but first track proper ‘Rettersted’ kicks things off in tremendous style with about thirty seconds of vicious thrash before a time change brings in a chopping wave of riffage that instantly brings to mind the huge guitar passages of classic Gehenna before reverting to some brutal double-kick action.
Album centrepiece ‘Thingvellir’ is an epic all on its own, with Invivus’ deliciously dark guitar work melding perfectly into the relentless pounding and torture that his drum kit is obviously receiving. Listening to it, it’s quite astonishing that this is the work of one man and this track – let alone the whole album – is testament to the man’s vision and talent.
The punkier feel of ‘Nekromani’ and ‘Djevelen i Menneskeform’ inject a little rock and roll into things in a similar way to latter-day Satyricon, which is never a bad thing, whilst the brooding ‘Telehiv’ really harks back to those early 90’s days of the burgeoning black metal scene, and had the production been a little less slick and more raw then this song could easily have come straight from 1993.
Closing with a cover of Dissection’s ‘Black Horizons’ – probably the least interesting song here, which says a lot about the quality of the original material – “Holmengraa” is quite simply a stunning debut album that demands your attention from the get-go and barely lets up until the end, after which you may be pressing that play button ready for another go. Excellent stuff.