Sorgeldom
Inner Receivings

I’ve handled a lot of atmospheric, forward-thinking material on the site in the past few years, so by now, I know if I get a black metal assignment, it’s going to be something interesting. Or, at least I hope so, because it’s those gems, twinkling in the darkness, that really make this gig enjoyable. So I suspected that Sorgeldom would be right up my alley – and it is – but I didn’t expect it to be this weird and mysterious and wonderful.

Simply put, if you like Enslaved – particularly their experimental mid-period, where the seafaring warriors of Blodhemn were set adrift in the psychedelic, haunted waters of Mardraum and Monumension – then you’ll love this. Inner Receivings is the second full-length from this Swedish group, which initially started as a more ambient one-man project but has since blossomed into a much fuller and accomplished effort.

And like those Enslaved releases, this is by no means a casual listening experience. It’s serpentine and unorthodox right from the start; the lengthy “I Kloaken Lättar Vi Ankar” sheds its skin again and again, daring you to grab hold and keep it from wriggling away. There are familiar elements here – speedy, frostbitten and mystical passages with tremolo riffs and deep, rasped vocals – but there are weird moments as well, like the song’s slow, discordant central interlude (which was actually recorded in a sewer), or the heroic, hypnotic final minutes. Other demanding compositions like “Dårskapens Karneval” or the relentless title track showcase a terrific interplay between hypnotic guitar melodies and equally mesmerizing, intricate basswork.

As raw as Inner Receivings is at the start, I was a bit surprised to hear Sorgeldom reveal their soft side as well, rendered in the newer, shimmering tones of the blackgazer movement. By now, the black metal/shoegazer thing isn’t so novel anymore, but I have to say, the passages on Inner Receivings rival even the latest release by Alcest, an act which is largely considered to be at the forefront of this splinter genre. To explain further, take the chiming, delicate final moments of “The Cold Empty Void,” or its follow-up, “Vintern Var Hård.” Both touch on the soft, introspective melancholy of Alcest, but never as overtly ethereal or plaintive, and certainly not as painfully emo as that last track on Écailles de Lune.

Other tracks take the whole mellow, shoegazer aesthetic and bring it back towards classic black metal in a way that feels more integrated and less foreign. “Drömmarnas Galax” pulls off traditional shoegaze shimmer without distortion, using a classic, folky tone instead. It also doesn’t hurt that the hymnal chanted vocals instantly take you back to the misty hills of Ulver’s Bergtatt. “I Väntan På Telefonsamtalet” is an even more unexpected juxtaposition, mixing funereal keyboards and an upbeat drum tempo so that it sounds like a jazzy post-punk version of Burzum. Weird but great.

If there’s one misstep here, it’s an actual shoegaze track inserted into the middle of the album, where Sorgeldom cover “Summer Day” from seminal genre act Slowdive. It’s an outtake from 1993’s Souvlaki, and not a track I’d heard before, but its otherworldly throb and warbling, buried vocals are just too great a stylistic departure from the rest of the album. I enjoy the track for what it is, and if it’d been offered as a bonus coda, I’d be fine. However, it’s smack in the middle, and so I’d have preferred if the band had simply taken more cues from the track and then written their own, unique take on it.

Needless to say, Inner Receivings is not an album that may instantly click with you – especially given the capricious structures, which take some time to learn and predict. However, it’s all pulled off with such panache and restraint and clarity that each successive listen just becomes that much more satisfying. Like last year’s excellent Merkur (German prog-black Klabautamann), this is a fascinating mutation of black metal that I’ll be returning to and getting lost in often.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
August 9th, 2010

Comments

  1. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    there is nothing emo about Alcest.


  2. Commented by: gabaghoul

    that last track on Ecailles is painful dude, sorry. If the whole album sounded like tracks 2 and 3 it’d be one of my picks of the year.


  3. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy
  4. Commented by: gabaghoul

    ohhhh is it a boo boo kitty face?


  5. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    frankly, I don’t give a crap what you think of the quality of the last half of the record. it’s not emo.


  6. Commented by: gabaghoul

    I went back and listened again. tracks 4 and 5 are fine, it’s 6 that makes me cringe. updated review to reflect that. now go listen to this already, you may dig it.


  7. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    sorry if I got mean or testy there. that’s just a word I’m so fed up with.


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