PICK OF THE WEEK: Bhleg bring nature, dreams together with cosmic power on ‘Draumr Ast’

BhlegMy dream for the weekend is to be able to get outside, fill my lungs with some cold air, and remember that there is more to life than managing data, attending meetings, and sitting in a cubicle all day long. I don’t hold any ill will against those things, because they are part of what I do every day and I want to do them well, but taking a break to just live and be a speck in the world can be a welcoming thing.

If I get a chance to do that—it’s a big if at this point—I plan to take a couple of walking companions along with me, namely the two minds behind Swedish duo Bhleg. The band’s stunning debut record “Draumr Ast” (to fall in love with dreams) has arrived via two very reliable labels, that being Nordvis Produktions and Bindrune Recordings, who regular readers know we trust nearly with blinders on. In this late-year assault of very good records, this stands out as the most atmospheric, beholden to nature, and spiritually refreshing of them all. I feel like I technically do not even need that reconnection to the outdoors, that I can sense the great majesty of our surroundings simply through this music. But combining the two might make the whole experience that much more effective and rewarding.

Bhleg coverBhleg bring together two artists who used to play in the band Ljuset, namely Simon Johansson (guitars, vocals, synth, percussion, etc.) and Ludvig Andersson (bass, vocals, etc.). This project is studio-based only right now, which makes sense considering the great, full-bodied sound of this music and the effort and commitment that would take to recreate live. “Draumr Ast” is a record that combines primitive black metal, ambiance, and woodsy folk music to conjure dreams and connection with the earth and stars, and while that description might not sound like anything new conceptually, the way these two play the music and express their artistic workings will make you realize Bhleg is something special.

Opener “Solkronan” doesn’t waste any time getting started, kicking off with aggressive, chugging guitars, raw growls, and fiery instrumentation that fills the woods with smoke. Strong melodies serve as a base for this thing, with some stop-start playing and fiery imagination that takes you into the interesting, gazey next two cuts. “Kosmos pulsadra” has shimmery synth, damp and cold melodies, as well as a deathrock-like approach that makes the song feel dank. Sounds build and flood, a cosmic sense is injected into the track, and dreamy playing streams right into “Nyckeln till livskraftens ursprung.” It’s a shorter, cloudy track rich with acoustic guitars and a sense of traveling through the woods, drinking in every ounce of the scenery. “Alyr” destroys the calm, hammering violently from the start and pushing ahead with might. There is a mix of murky clean vocals and monstrous growls that take turns telling the tale, and the melodies hover like a swollen, gray cloud, saturating everything beneath it before it subsides and lets some sunlight poke through. The birds you hear chirp into the carry over to “Brunnens Hjarta” that is loaded with riffs and atmosphere. The vocals are grim, while the guitar work burns a path for them to follow, leading into pockets of great intensity and savage emotions that threaten with tumult.

“Skymningsdrommar” is led in by slow, deliberate drumming, keyboards that sound like a swarm, and compelling music that is unlike anything else on this record. There are haunting whispers that send drafts through the room before guitar emerge and slash open any sense of serenity. The vocals pour on the volcanic ash, and the track runs face-first into “Brunnakrar,” which keeps the intensity as a fever pitch with guitars that rage and a punishing tempo that seems like it could pulverize you. The band drives hard, with molten guitar work glowing and blinding and a full-on assault that returns after a brief moment of pullback. “Stjärnkartans väv” is a final, space soup instrumental, with weird keys that could soundtrack an old B sci-fi movie picked apart on “MST3,” which gives it a great sense of charm. It’s weird and tribal, setting the stage for the dramatic closing title cut, which begins with more glorious, smoldering riffs and vocals that sound like they are designed to permanently damage one’s throat. Each layer of this song come cascading down, leaving you little chance to catch your breath and pushing this journey with full force. But while it might seem the band is focused on breaking your will sonically, they relent, letting the song breathe and spilling folk acoustics and birds calling into the conclusion. That should remind you that while there was danger, you’re back in a safe place beneath the stars.

Obviously Bhleg encourage you to reach beyond this plane and into your imagination, both when asleep and awake. The music on “Draumr Ast” should help you accomplish that, and don’t go saying you’re too metal to get in touch with your darker aspirations and fantasies. Maybe you don’t have to do that, if you’re not inclined. Instead, go outside, crunch the leaves under your boots, and remember the world that suffocates you week in and week out and can be escaped for solace every now and again. Appreciate those times.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/bhlegofficial

To buy the album, go here: http://eihwazrecordings.com/distro/

Or here: http://www.nordvis.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: http://bindrunerecordings.com/

Or here: http://www.nordvis.com/