The trappings of black metal, perhaps unlike no other genre, are an inherent part of the music. More than just style, than just dress codes, they are meant to communicate something more, something deeper: derision, sadness, despair, rebellion, rejection. More often than not, this isn’t the case; from the origins of the genre, through the numerous waves and iterations, and all the way to today, a lot of black metal is dishonest and disingenuous. What’s worse, it seems as if the fans themselves have forgotten how to recognize earnestness, preferring cheap tricks and weak appeals to conservatism and cruelty over a real dedication to what black metal has always been about: passion, a struggle, a cry in the dark.
But some bands remember and when you hear their music you are reminded of everything that black metal holds. For Ofdrykkja, this has always been a deep-seated melancholy and depression, falling well within the walls of Depressive Black Metal. Struggling with mental illness, addiction, and loneliness, the members of the band have been channeling life’s hardships into powerful music for eight years now. But now, it appears that a new chapter in the life of Ofdrykkja is on the cusp of unfolding; on November 29th, the band are set to release their third album, Gryningsvisor (“Ballads at Dawn)”. What has changed you ask? Apparently, after hitting rock bottom, the three parts of the band are starting to find a new path forward:
Drabbad was gunned down by police and spent a three year prison sentence. The base to most songs of our second album was written from within the prison walls. Having hit rock bottom, we were all ready to find a way out of that dark wilderness in which we were all lost. The second album received a suitable title – Irrfärd (which translates to ‘Aimless journey’).
With nothing to lose, we had all jumped off the sinking ship and found our ways back to shore. Drabbad has stayed sober and clean since the night leading to his prison sentence. Pessimisten managed to break free from his alcohol addiction and regained control over his mind. Associate found his path in the homestead direction.
As we are finding our way back to ourselves, we are also finding our way back to who we really are. As in our identity – our culture. Three years after recording the second album, the journey don’t seem as aimless anymore. The long and hard polar night has come to an end. The first glimpse of the long awaited sun as it’s fighting its way up above the horizon. Dawn is here.
The music speaks these words as well. Opening with scintillating notes, “The Swan” is like DSBM transformed and yet still whole. The signature lo-fi production, the heart-piercing screams, the black metal roots are all there. But there’s also a beauty in the clean vocals which adorn the latter parts of the track (performed by Miranda Samuelsson) and in the enchanting riffs which run throughout the track. The contrast between the harsher screams and Samuelsson’s majestic cleans gives the ending of this track a power that’s not to be trifled with.
It’s not exactly a happy tune; instead, it hints at a road towards happiness, alluring us with a contemplative touch that channels the beauty of a frozen, cold world and the hope that might still lie at its core. The slower tempo gives us time to consider the multiple guitar tracks (both the clearer leads and the fuzzy riffs in the back), as if the drums are telling us at what pace to consider all of this.
More than anything, it’s an excellent black metal creation, bleeding over ever so faintly into the realms of shoegaze and drone but still very much reminiscent of the power that DSBM can hold when executed well. Make sure to pre-order Gryningsvisor here (EU) and here (US) as its set to be one of the genre’s more powerful releases in recent years. It’s a good reminder of the personal power that black metal holds when channeled towards growth, overcoming, and healing rather than hate.