As much as I love metal that bludgeons you and gets right at your center with a blow that robs you of your breath, or music that feels like a triumph of glory, I have a soft spot for records and bands that get inside me and make me feel like I’m separating from my body. It doesn’t often happen, but when it does, it’s an immersive, rewarding experience.
I had to stop listening to “Skuggflock,” the new record from Swedish black metal force Stilla, while I was at work or driving. There’s something about this record and its seven cuts that gets inside my head, makes it go numb, and transports me somewhere else. It’s always been that way for me with Stilla’s music, so they’ve always been a band in which I indulge when the time and mood are right. I’m planning on taking a trip soon during which I’ll have a lot of time to gaze into the beyond and repair my batteries, so “Skuggflock” seems like prime material to accompany me. But if I’m in the midst of doing something that demands my utmost attention, Stilla always get in the way of that, because my mind is diverted toward what they’ve created. That’s a good problem for me to have.
While only a band for the past five years, Stilla already have gifted us with three full-length efforts—2011 debut “Till stilla falla,” 2014’s immersive “Ensamhetens andar,” and now this new record. Combining the efforts of members of bands as varied and impressive as Bergraven (I know you three are doing nice things here, but new album, please!), Infernal Hellfire, Whirling, De Arma, and more, this band pools together what they’ve created elsewhere and pours it into this otherworldly puzzle. Here, we have A. Petterson on vocals, P. Stille on guitars, keyboards, and vocals, A. Vidhall on bass, and J. Marklund on drums, and they create a visceral, at times terrifying soundscape that is filled with atmosphere and chaos with a sense of prog-infused adventure that claims you for the entire ride.
The record opens with “Irrfärd,” a quick introductory piece built on cold guitars and melodies, raspy howls, and a mid-air boil that leads into “Vårens sista önskan” and its speedy assault. Melodies wrap around you while the gruff growls and raucous tempo do ample bruising. Synth stretches over top, with an orchestral sense blending into the song, and from there it heads into a dreamy, folkish territory. It’s not long before the band is trudging again, with the final moments amping up the drama. The title track is mystical and otherworldly at its start before it blows open and gets ugly and mangling. The song has some really catchy moments, as icy acoustics enter the fray, and the furious growls meet up with disorienting clean singing. From there, the track rips open again, as riffs rain down to bring a smothering end. “Till den som skall komma” opens with bloodrushing guitars and mountainous wails running head first into slurring melodies that bring the song to a sludgy pace. The storm returns, naturally, with organs pumping, drums putting holes in the floor, and a muddy, crushing finish.
“I tystnad vilar själen” takes a different bend, with a post-punk style to the music, and smooth singing driving the way. Later the track gets more aggressive, with the guitars slamming the gas pedal and burning hard, while the muck rears its head again and brings about a doomy aura. Chant-like vocals meet up with the steam, with the track blasting to a finish. “Av maran riden” has a grim, proggy first few moments, getting the emotions running in a different manner, with the scathing, eerie attack coming not far behind. The bass bends around corners, while the vocals lash out, splashes of cold push into the madness, and the guitars spiral into the cosmos. “Ett inre helvete – ett yttre helvete” closes the record with a calculated pace to start before more threatening elements unfold. The vocals push in as dramatic yells, with the guitar work mesmerizing and numbing your brain before an Opeth-like transition pops up. From there, warbled singing, a thick murk, and a serene melody capture you and return you back to your normal plane of existence.
Stilla remain one of black metal’s most mystifying, inventive bands, and “Skuggflock” is another mesmerizing chapter in their already impressive run together. This music deserves and demands to be digested as a whole, with no other distractions in the room, and you giving yourself to their mission, at least until the record runs out. It’s prime music for unfurling your mind and giving into whatever dimensions of existence are beyond your earthly reach.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/tillstilla
To buy the album, go here: https://thecollectivedistro.com/
Or here: http://store.nordvis.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://bindrunerecordings.com/
And here: http://www.nordvis.com/