Kampfar – “Ofidians Manifest” (Indie Recordings)
Battle Helm Rating
A named hushed for a over 25 years, Kampfar have been long treading a road far removed from even those of the left hand path in Norway’s hallowed and feared black metal scene. Although rooted in that extreme style, folklore and nature have also found their place in the passage of the band’s powerfully atmospheric and spiritual music, aggressive as it is yet also incredibly beckoning. Never a band to be rushed or influenced by panderings or trends, I’ve always found Kampfar’s deep and reflective albums to not only capture the moment but equally, reveal with remarkable honesty the true sentiments of the band themselves. Recovering from health issues in 2017, and guitarist Ole Hartvigsen laying his father to rest, the band returned to their creative home in the scandinavian alps region of Hemsedal, surrounded by breathtaking mountains and spell bounding forests, and as the colours turned from summer green to autumn yellow to winter white, the madness of Medusa would unfold! “Ofidians Manifest” is Kampfar’s most suave release to date, building on the screaming black metal first fashioned in this very same locality a quarter of a century before, but now also including viking and pagan metal, while classily blending in the female voices of Agnete Kjølsrud and Marianne Maria Moen at times on different songs, delicate piano touches here and there and on occasion, heartfelt melancholia across the 7 tracks that range from 4 to 8 minutes long apiece. By no means a substitute for Dolk’s intense performance and Kampfar’s matching musicianship, these subtle additions add more stylishness without detracting from the band’s still ravenous sound. From the icy blast beating on ‘Natte’ come haunting voices echoing before Dolk unleashes his own venom and impassioned singing as the gears shift into a mid tempo pagan trance – and then deathly silence – before the main man drawls along to wiry guitar breaks, drum rolls and double bass rhythmic beats making your heart and mind race along to the final sickly spat ending! With pagan horns sounding and creaking guitars on ‘Dominans’, Kjølsrud adds her own dark feminine voice to match Dolk’s visceral roars on this catchy song that mixes pagan metal, goth and electronica, while still maintaining the intensity through raw shredding guitars and pummelling drum work. ‘Eremitt’ actually begins with Dolk singing amid dark guitar melodies – until slow power riffs crash in amid warrior grunts – before a piano leads into blissful epica with nordic choirs and Ask Ty Ulvhedin Bergli Arctander’s technical drumming as Hartvigsen incorporates his own thick guitar work into this mesmerising track that closes with deathly ominousness. On Skamløs!, the evil riffs and dark warbles run fast along to Dolk’s drawls and the accompanying double bass drumming on this truly black song, reminding all of Kampfar’s proud roots, along with a touch of Celtic Frost death n roll that soon evolves epically but melodically as Hartvigsen adds in his own moving guitar solo to warrior chants and a melancholic piano….wow. Ending with ‘Det Sorte’, the impassioned pagan wailing-in-the-wind vocals and tribal drums are reminiscent of Primordial, and as the epic bombast unfolds both through a massive sound as well as emotion intensity, the nordic blackness of dry drawls and faster double bass drumming allow this monster number to come into its own, contrasted by more than its fair share of melancholia as Moen adds her ethereal wailing in the background to give it that final touch of closure in every regard. Winners of Norway’s ‘Spellemann’ Grammy award in 2015, Kampfar are a law unto themselves, so expect “Ofidians Manifest” to be none the less, while excelling in both sophistication and plunging darkness.