It didn’t have to be this way; frankly, Bogefod shouldn’t have turned out the way it did. With famed Darkthrone frontman Nocturno Culto at the helm of a cast of well-connected musicians (Satyricon, Old Man’s Child, Tulus), it seemed that there would be a baseline level of musical chops at play with Sarke’s fourth offering. This was further bolstered by a phenomenal, grim cover accompanied by promises of grand, dynamic takes on atmospheric doom, thrash and black metal. Better yet, Bogefod was touted as a “highly conceptual album spinning around the evil walking dead Torolv Bogefod from the norse classic Eyrbyggja saga.” Considering all of this pre-album boasting, it truly is amazing how much of a deficit actually exists between Bogefod’s press release and the substance of its track listing.
There’s nothing dynamic or conceptual about Bogefod, and this isn’t due to the fact that Nocturno’s lyrics are usually indiscernible. The album’s nine tracks average roughly three to four minutes in length, with “Barrow of Torolv” being the only song to push through to five. While a lengthy runtime isn’t necessary to make detailed, enjoyable track, Sarke simply don’t use their terse, self-allotted time wisely, nor do they tie the tracks into any discernable, coherent whole. There are only two moments of larger grandeur, being a brief, adequate acoustic intro at the beginning of “Barrow” and the extended folk excursion of “Dawning.” And though the latter may have gorgeous female vocals that soar over a string arrangement and plucked guitar, it feels like it’s trying harder to feel lush and expansive than it actually succeeds at doing. It ends up being a merely pleasant break from the other musical attempts Sarke makes elsewhere on the album.
Unfortunately, “attempts” is really the most fitting term to describe Bogefod’s tracks with. Sarke’s lack of conceptual focus isn’t just an unfortunate case of false advertising, but a summation of songwriting that opens meagerly, waddles about in one place and then peters out without leaving a trace of an impact. The only way to derive enjoyment from “The Wicked’s Transient Sleep” is to imagine the track as an instance of Goatwhore playing hungover beyond belief instead of gloriously hammered (as is their typical state of being). And what might damper the impact that “Dawning” has is the lackluster follow-up provided by “Evil Heir,” which comes across as a Mayhem demo that didn’t make it any further for good reason. It’s difficult to pull aside any other tracks to scold for their mediocrity; the grand majority of what Sarke puts forth sounds like pre-packaged, store brand extreme metal seasoned with the blandest of flavors.
Nocturno doesn’t do anything to assist this situation, nor does Anders Hunstand, who allegedly provides keyboards on the record. Sure, his name appears in the album credits, but unless he arranged the strings on “Dawning,” there isn’t a single noteworthy atmosphere or synth piece on the entire album. Honestly, it was a genuine shock to discover that one of the four members of Sarke is an actual, dedicated keyboardist given what Bogefod has to offer (or rather, doesn’t). But it’s really Nocturno’s performance that should raise eyebrows and solicit grimaces. Love the impeccable performances on early Darkthrone records that epitomize grim, tortured BM vocals? Well, try to suppress those memories as much as possible while listening to him struggle through a hoarse, tepid growl that softens the few biting moments that Bogefod puts forth.
In a way, Bogefod was a team effort, but certainly not in the way that Sarke intended. Despite being so short, Bogefod is a tedious listen that falls flat in practically everything it attempts to accomplish. It’s the album’s utter blandness that becomes most frustrating; it’s neither well done nor utterly and entertainingly terrible, ultimately feeling like a tiresome waste of time. Hopefully the promises that accompanied Bogefod actually manifest into a separate album worthy of both these grandiose claims and the abilities that Nocturno has proven he has. Until then, Sarke only provide ample reasons to stay as far away from the repeat button as possible.
Sarke – Bogefod gets…