Finland has long been known for conjuring up some of the filthiest, freakiest black metal out there, and that description more than applies to Sielunvihollinen, the second album from Förjord. Rife with the kind of sickening, saw-toothed gnarliness we’ve come to expect from the Finnish, the duo effortlessly combines the atmospheric and the scathing sides of black metal to create something that’s both staunchly traditional and uniquely their own.
Sielunvihollinen sounds like it was recorded inside a vomit-filled trashcan, but the production isn’t your typical necro-treble assault. There is mid-range and bottom-end aplenty here; at times one can even distinctly hear the bass guitar rumbling away underneath the super-distorted six-string. Förjord aren’t afraid to mix things up in the songwriting department either, incorporating acoustic guitars, kantele, samples and even some clean vocals into their blackened bludgeoning.
What’s really surprising about Sielunvihollinen though is the variety of riffage on display. Typically upon diving this deep into the black metal underground, one is met with a constant barrage of uninspired, monochromatic tremolo riffing, but Förjord guitarist Valgrinder ain’t havin’ it. He’s just as likely to unleash some thick ‘n’ chunky palm-muted chug, garage-punk power chord damage or eerie arpeggios, sometimes all within the same song. His playing brings a dynamic range to the band well beyond the re-hashed 2nd wave Norse-worship that so much of the modern black metal scene is content to serve up. Drummer/vocalist Prokrustes Thanatos is no slouch either, spending most of the album beating the living shit out of his kit with a solid, bare bones approach. The vocals are largely your standard-issue blackened rasping, but Thanatos sounds appropriately inhuman, complementing the music’s seething ugliness.
While Förgjord’s press materials refer to them as freezing Finnish black metal, I don’t get a particularly cold vibe while listening to Sielunvihollinen. In fact, to these ears the album possesses a fairly earthy atmosphere by black metal standards, which probably has something to do with the folkish-sounding moments of relative calm that ever so briefly rear their heads throughout its duration, as well as the aforementioned lack of reliance on ear-bleeding treble. The soundscapes Förgjord creates here are multi-layered epics drenched in hateful, lo-fi abandon. The atmosphere is undeniably grim and primitive, but also polished and well-composed, at once embracing and defying black metal’s sonic tenets, if such a thing is possible.
Although Förgjord is firmly entrenched within the rawest of the raw black metal paradigms, it is what they are able to achieve while working within that paradigm that makes Sielunvihollinen such an enthralling listen, tinkering with the formula just enough to keep even the most hardened black metal fanatics on their toes and not a bit more. You’ve no doubt heard lots of filthy, traditional Finnish BM, but you haven’t yet heard a band quite like Förgjord.