Djerv
Djerv

Remember that female guest vocalist featured in Dimmu Borgir’s music video for “Gateways”, the hit single of the black metal purist’s most-hated album of 2010, Abrahadabra? Yes, Agnete Kjølsrud, the lanky lady who looks like a witch and wears a tomboyish haircut, thick makeup, and who was swaying awkwardly to-and-fro like a gothic version of Pinocchio being controlled by a drunk puppeteer. She displayed such professional theatricality, that who would have known she is actually a fairly new entrant to the Norwegian hard rock/metal scene?… And she’s back.

For once, the band’s biography that comes with the promo actually describes the music pretty flakkin’ accurately. As stated, “It’s aggressive rock, borderline metal and dangerously catchy! The Black Metal references are there, but first and foremost this is a modern Rock Album!” Word, and let’s go into detail why this PR description is actually so accurate. By the way, three songs on this album are re-recordings of their earlier incarnations on Djerv’s 2010 Headstone EP, namely “Headstone”, “Ladder To The Moon” and “Immortal” (they are some of the catchier songs on this record too, no coincidence I think).

When it comes to the issue of having female vocalists in the male-dominated realm of hard rock and heavy metal, the general bias towards them is that their vocals cannot possibly match their male counterparts’ in terms of aggressiveness and power. Bullshit, I’ve heard male power metal vocalists who sound weaker than Agnete Kjølsrud, (one of whom is Dark Empire’s Brian Larkinand). Being Djerv’s frontwoman and ex-member of Animal Alpha, it is amazing how both bands don’t receive the attention they should be getting when Agnete has such a one-of-a-kind voice. Her voice sounds scratchy, not cat claws scraping across the chalk board kind of ear-piercing scratchiness, but the kind that sounds as though she had a drop too much of Jack Daniels: nasal, rough, warm, and powerful. The skill with which she wields her instrument is impressive too, because she can maintain a consistent strength to her trademark deep voice despite frequent and quick changes in pitch. Listen to the chorus of the straightforward hard rock anthem, “Headstone” and you will hear what I mean; she switches from semi-monotonous, shouted vocals in the tenor range to singing a few notes in the higher range of alto all within the space of a second.

Furthermore, the brash confidence she exudes simply makes her singing style so irresistible. As she lets us know right off the bat at the start of the opening track, “Madman”, we are all in for some: “MMMAAAAAADNEEEEEEEEEESS!”

And then it’s time to talk about the black metal influence, which is without a doubt my favorite part of this album. The nefarious energy of metal’s grimmest sub-genre can be felt in every track to some extent actually, often through the tremolo picking done by the secondary guitars in the background; and less frequently through ambient introductions that reminds one of blackened folk metal bands (such as Agalloch and Drudkh) on tracks like “Ladder To The Moon” and “Immortal”. The tremolo picking comes through most clearly on a few tracks though. In particular, keep an ear out for the seventh track, “Abmuse”. Not only does it open with a foreboding barrage of double bass kicks coupled with an ascending note sequence played with tremolo picking; right after the climax, it evolves into a Deathspell Omega tribute of sorts, sending the familiar Silent Hill-esque chills down your spine. Another noticeable moment would be past the halfway mark of closing track “Immortal”, where the tremolo picking is as obvious as the irony in Foo Fighters winning the title of “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance” during the 2012 Grammy Awards.

Welp, if you’ve got friends who can’t seem to get into black metal, try and coax them with Djerv first. They might just warm up to black metal soon enough.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Dane Prokofiev
March 13th, 2012

Comments

  1. Commented by: thisblacksession

    I’ve been listening to this album for months and I really am quite fond of it. The chorus for “Immortal” is one of the catchiest things I’ve heard in a while – hope to hear more from them.


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