Swedish black metal crusaders Stilla bring apocalyptic visions of frost and fire on ‘Synviljor’

It’s been no secret to me that sometimes black metal plays tricks with my mind. Very often, the right type of music can make me feel like I’m seeing wintry forests and thick sheets of ice, even in the hottest point in the summer. It really never cools me off physically, but it can convince my mind into thinking the chill is welling up right outside my door.

That doesn’t totally play into the idea on an optical illusion, now that I think about it, but it’s my segue into “Synviljor,” the fourth full-length record from Swedish black force Stilla. The title of the record roughly translates into optical illusion, hence where I was trying to go with this, and it definitely will transport you to the land of ice and snow, a place on which we are on the cusp here in the Eastern United States. Spread out over seven dramatic tracks, the band drops you right into the center of a show-splattered forest, as you can see your breath in the air and hear the crusty ground crack beneath your boots. The band—A. Petterson (vocals), guitarist/keyboard player/vocalist P. Stille, bassist A. Vidhall, drummer J. Marklund, three quarters of which also play in Bergraven—spellbind and destroy, weaving in calming, atmospheric stretches into their creaky, sooty black metal.

“Frälsefrosten” begins the record with a warm stream of keys washing over before the track ignites. Black metal majesty reigns, while Petterson’s furious growls rampage, and the track revels in its heaviness. The guitars jar the song in a different direction, while the growls maintain the nastiness, though they’re countered by clean singing. Riffs then stomp and the song ends grasping both dark and light. “Skogsbrand” storms hard as the melodies rage into the murk, where they bask in shadows. Out of that, the pace outright bludgeons, retreating into dark corners from time to time, stampeding hard toward its end. “En närvaro av då” has guitars churning and a wintry feel creeping in, bringing drafts. The music freezes over, but it’s melted by the charring growls and destroyed by the drums mauling. Sounds hang in the air before the tempo goes into the mud, with the growls killing, and the band smothering your senses. Synth and guitars blend to form a fog before the band returns to violent trampling, as wild calls erupt and the track bleeds away.

“Den kusligaste av gäster” delivers whirring keys that mesmerize before the hammers drop. Guitars mangle, while the synth strikes, and the vocals step down on your throat without mercy. The pace is merciless as they bring dramatic damage, a barnstorming assault, and total annihilation right up to the end. “Myr” begins with crazed yells before they start on their destructive path that leads to an infernal approach before the ice droplets begin to make everything slick. Strange speaking warbles over top, while the riffs divebomb, mixing nicely with the wintry synth that sends chills. The pace blasts away, the synth continues to enhance the ambiance, and feedback builds and chokes away everything. “Över blodiga vidder” is the closer on all formats but the CD, and it also pays off with coldness that gets underneath all layers, with creaking speaking working into your psyche. The track then bursts, detonating everything in its path, with the raw growls spreading pain. The guitars speed up, the drums echo, and warped howls add to the delirium of the attack. “Ut ur tid och rum” is the closer on the CD version, getting off to a proggy start before the track begins crushing. There’s a rock n roll feel underneath all the carnage, with the riffs slicing, the vocals scraping flesh, and the playing leaving bruising. At this point, the gas pedal has been rammed through the floor, the track rambles recklessly, and everything ends in a heap of smoke and fire.

Majestic and destructive, Stilla create another freezing portrait on the crushing and enthralling “Synviljor.” Ever since the band’s debut in 2011, Stilla have been making black metal that, if you immerse yourself deeply, jettisons you to a completely different place. This record is landing at the perfect time, as the darkness falls and snow and ice are about to be outside our windows as we return to our own, unforgiving winter wonderland.

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

To buy the album, go here: https://nordvis.com/en/stilla-a-17

For more on the label, go here: https://www.nordvis.com/en/

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