The self-titled album can be quite a statement for several reasons. A self-titled release by a seasoned outfit – think Sodom’s 2006 effort for example – can be the aural distillation of what a band is about and what it really sounds like. The more common case however is the self-titled debut full-length which signals the arrival of a new act on the scene and in a way serve as a reference point for the future. Loviatar, from the Canadian capital, has been active for the better part of this decade, releasing four EPs before finally putting together their first full-length Loviatar. This Ottawa-based quartet incorporates some sludge and doom metal elements in a rather homogeneous thirty seven minute post-metal journey where walls of sound are efficiently built and torn down from segment to segment to create a concise yet confounding listen.
The album’s four tracks can actually be divided into two groups. The first group would be tracks one through three (“Nascent”, “Discordant” and “Ascendant”) which together form the three parts of the ‘Stygian Wyrm’ saga. For the uninitiated – this reviewer included – the term Stygian relates to the river Styx in Greek mythology while the term Wyrm refers to a type of dragon found in Norse mythology. Depending on one’s level of familiarity with Greek and Norse mythology, it can be argued ad nauseam if such a creature as a ‘Stygian Wyrm’ could ever exist, even in a mythological context.
On the musical front though, “Nascent” starts the album off with a patient build up that gives way to a dense fog of intricate chord arrangements and layered walls of sound as the pounding drums and raspy vocals try to pierce through the proverbial fog. The seamless blending of “Discordant” into “Nascent” takes the mood to a higher level as it is a shorter, more clinically executed piece. The tempo on this one is considerably faster, the vocals take a more commanding role and the guitar solo, while sometimes erratic, just adds an accent to it. The third and concluding act “Ascendant” is the most noteworthy of the three. The eight minute piece begins with a brooding introduction and builds up towards an intense mid-section that features rolling drums and explosive cymbals accentuating a very catchy chord pattern. All of this creates an air of tension as if to symbolize the ascendancy of the Stygian dragon which departs abruptly as the song draws to a close with a darker, more minimalist section.
The second half of the album is the nineteen minute epic “Blind Goddess of the Nine Plagues” which, in Finnish mythology – which is quite different from Norse mythology – is the goddess named Loviatar; the band’s very namesake. The story says that the blind goddess from the underworld was unassumingly impregnated by the wind and gave birth to nine sons, each of which a disease upon mankind. Aside from the story though, this is a musical composition with a lot going on. Despite a heavier side to Loviatar emerging with a blast beat and a post-black metal segment, the same elements found on the first half are also found in abundance here but they are tied together in a more natural way; probably because the formality of dividing the piece is abandoned.
Loviatar may seem like an album of two distinct halves but it certainly doesn’t play out like one. In addition to a strong interest in mythology that manifests itself all the way through the band’s work, the music is very cohesive and engaging. There’s a tendency among several bands to get carried away by repetitions and patient build-ups in the hope of creating a record of epic proportions but Loviatar is band that knows when to move on from a piece and keep things fresh. As a self-titled album, this definitely signals the arrival of an ambitious yet pragmatic band that draws influences from several sub-genres of metal and a handful of world mythologies and it sounds very much like a winning combination.