Although the prominence of Norwegian black metal isn’t what it once was, it could still be argued that they invented it and no one does it better. As often and as hard as I’ve been singing the praises of all things USBM of late, even I find it hard to refute that argument when presented with an album as front-to-back badass as Koldbrann’s Vertigo. I had heard the band’s name prior to receiving the promo from Season of Mist, but as yet hadn’t had the opportunity to give ’em a fair shake; turns out the the quintet’s hard rocking take on traditional Norse BM is right up my dark alley.
When one thinks of rock-influenced black metal in this context, the divisive albums of Satyricon’s “black ‘n’ roll” phase most likely come to mind. Koldbrann’s sound is no doubt similar in concept, but is far less clinical and repetitive, and far more organic and rocking. The production of Vertigo is pretty darn pristine, but the band still manages to inject the songs with a down ‘n’ dirty vibe to balance out the scathing black metal-isms. They also possess a knack for writing dynamic, energetic songs that get the blood boiling in spite of the chilling tremolo riffage that permeates the proceedings; think of it as the damn near perfect hybrid of Taake’s exacting purity and Kvelertak’s booze-addled boisterousness.
Vertigo is also a surprisingly diverse listen; “Stolichnaya Smert” is a high-octane ode to the cruel mistress vodka, while the awesomely titled “Goat Lodge” splits the difference between Carpathian Forest and Celtic Frost, and then chucks in a bluesy solo for good measure. “Totalt Sjelelig Bankerott” starts off as an oldschool blackened scorcher before morphing into punked up nastiness and back again. “Things even get a bit psychedelic on album closer “Inertia Corridors,” a track that juxtaposes ice-cold guitars against magic mushroom synths. That’s just the tip of the iceberg; each track on Vertigo has its individual charms, and there’s not a weak one in the bunch, making it tough as all hell to pick out the highlights.
Koldbrann have crafted that rarest of beasts with Vertigo; a burly black metal album that’s built like brick shit-house, but also brings the stone cold grimness the Norwegians made their reputation on all those years ago. The perfect album for a ritual sacrifice or a drunk-as-fuck fistfight; all black eyes and bloody daggers.