Track Premiere: Kval – “Pohjanriitti”

Since Finnish black metal has been in the news recently for mostly the wrong reasons, I want you to do me a favor.

Yeah, yeah, I know…I’m ‘Breaking the 4th Wall’ like Deadpool…I’m committing a major faux pas…whatever. Just hit pause for a second, find the erase button in your brain, and remove any mention of ‘Finnish black metal’ from the last two weeks or so of your working memory, and then meet me back here. Okay? Cool. And now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to give thanks and praise to the most (un)holy of (un)holies, black metal. Finland may have come to the genre a bit later than the rest of their Scandinavian brethren, but they have more than made up for whatever time they may have lost with the unbelievable consistency of their output. I’ve said this several times before, but since I’ve yet to say it in these virtual pages: nowhere in the world does the black flame of the second wave burn quite as brightly as it does in the Land of the Thousand Lakes.

Vantaa-based Kval is actually more on the atmospheric end of the black metal spectrum than most of their Finnish brethren, but but there’s one element of their sound that does fall very much in line with expectations: their unwavering devotion to the icy, melodic riff. Actually, it would be more accurate to say ‘his’ devotion to he riff, because even though Wntrbrnr played the guitars on Kval’s sophomore full-length Laho (as well as mixing and mastering the album), the riffs themselves the product of a single individual who also calls himself Kval.

The word ‘kval’ translates as ‘anguish’ in English, and the album’s title Laho as “rotten,” so one might assume that something depressive will come wafting out of the speakers upon hitting play on “Pohjanriitti” (“The Rite of the North”), which we’re thrilled to be hosting the North American premiere of today at Clandestine Sounds. While there are certainly aspects of their mid-tempo, melodic approach that are reminiscent of depressive Finnish greats Totalselfhatred or Denmark’s Make a Change…Kill Yourself, that’s actually not the dominant mode in their sound. Instead, there’s a shocking amount of light within these compositions. I don’t know if that signifies hope within the rot – honestly, I kind of doubt it – but it gives the music the exact sort of emotional complexity I crave from this style of black metal. Also: Kval plays kantele on the album, and I’m really developing an appreciation for that instrument thanks to bands like Vetten Runotar.

Laho will be available on May 23 from Hypnotic Dirge Records in a couple of different formats and bundles. Check them out here and then grab a preorder while enjoying our stream of “Pohjanriitti” below.

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