Vildhjarta
Masstaden

Few bands can lay claim to the fact that their guitar style spawned a whole genre, but Meshuggah is one such band. Their heavily palm-muted, distorted guitar style known as “djent” has spawned many a copycat. Some bands such as Periphery, Animals as Leaders, Putrescent Secretancy, Textures and others have done a good job of trying to follow what the four crazy Swedes have managed to accomplish, with most falling short. Then along comes a band like Vildhjarta, and let’s just say the masters might want to keep their eye on the student.

Hailing from the same country as the math metal legends themselves, Vildhjarta is a seven (seven?!) piece band that formed in 2005. They created a tremendous amount of buzz with their 2-song EP Omnislash in 2009 and rare live performances in Europe in 2010. What we have in their full-length is a cutting, darting, absolutely razor-sharp album that has to be one of the most impressive debuts in recent memory.

The album starts out with an ominously slow, acoustic guitar tone until just past the 40 second mark where you’re greeted with the first staccato-picked, iron-heavy, rhythm-guitar layered riff that is downright glorious in its execution. It jarringly sets the stage for the maelstrom that is to follow. The mid-toned, barely decipherable yelled/growled vocals come in shortly past the one-minute mark, and dance perfectly among the three-pronged guitar attack. The first three songs really help the band to establish a presence, jockeying between smacking you upside the head with an enjoyably dissonant wall of guitars, only to cut off sharply with some acoustic solo or ambient noise before the next round of fretwork lays waste to you and your neighbor’s sanity.

The aural battery reaches a crescendo with track six, “Traces”, that starts out with a fast, thrash-style riff before coming to the album’s first clean vocals around the 2 minute mark. They are very well placed, and add an element of temporary order to the chaos and allow the band to let the song and their audience breathe for a bit. But then the house caves in again, and I found myself asking the same thing the first time I heard Chaosphere – “How the hell do these guys play together and make this stuff somehow work?” I don’t know what the answer is and really don’t care, I just enjoy the result.

The album has a 51 minute run time, but it never gets old or stale. With dual vocals, titanic chords, pinch harmonics and brutal riffs coming at you from all sides, part of the fun is never knowing where this album will hit you from next. If I had one criticism I would say the album does slow down and go acoustic/instrumental a tad too often, but that’s a very minor gripe. It’s also worth noting that octopus-limbed drummer David Lindkvist definitely channels his inner Thomas Haake on this album. He keeps the band locked down tighter than the porn collection you keep hidden from your girlfriend, showing off phenomenal stop-start control and polyrhythmic beats that would be a real treat to behold live.

Lyrically the band has said that this is a concept album told as a fairy tale story. Interesting choice, but at least it’s a break from the normal throwaway extreme metal concepts of death, gore, etc. Also look closely at the artwork, as you will see more hidden creatures/things the longer you study it. So top all this off with a production by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Devin Townsend) that lets each instrument stand on its own, and you have an absolute monster on your hands. It came late, but I can already confirm that I have found my album of the year. And it isn’t even a contest.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Kevin E
December 7th, 2011

Comments

  1. Commented by: E. Thomas

    I should look into this as ive been on a bit of a djent kick of late


  2. Commented by: E. Thomas
  3. Commented by: stiffy

    I thought this was an operatic album like Nightwish or something with that cover art. Now I’m intrigued


  4. Commented by: AARONIUS

    Yeah, I wondered why everyone was talking about this band, as the artwork and un-pronouncable swedish name had me thinking they were some sort of goth/operatic/doom type band, but after this review these guys sound like they would be right up my alley.

    Also Choasphere from Meshuggah still blows my mind.


  5. Commented by: gordeth

    I would’ve guessed folk metal.


  6. Commented by: GW

    One problem with this album: The tuning of the bottom of the 8 strings.
    It sounds like they tune the lowest string, which has the least tension right at pitch and then slam the string hard and quick. The effect is often low notes that are annoyingly sharp, sounding very strange and obtrusive.

    I like the music quite a bit but you have to adjust those 8 string guitars, including tuning them a little flat on the bottom end for stabbing riffs.

    It could be most wouldn’t hear this, but now that i have mentioned it…sorry.


  7. Commented by: jerry

    that problem would be avoided if they had the right gauge string for whatever set up they are using. some prefer that sound, and you can hear it on six string guitars too such as on Hypocrisy’s Osculum Obscenum record.


  8. Commented by: E. Thomas

    Love it. The deep vocals make it more death metal sounding also. As a casual listener, not a musician, I think the guitar tone is sick


  9. Commented by: GW

    The guitar tone is fine. It is the pitch of the low strings, that are sharp, all the time, that annoy folks who are big on pitch. It isn’t a good fault to have. If the tone was scruffy here and there or whatever, that would be ok. I like the writing and music for the most part.

    Those sharp low notes irritate!


  10. Commented by: dustbowl

    bought this album based solely on this review and i am totally glad i did.


  11. Commented by: DK777

    Feb. 2012: picked this up on a whim yesterday; had my mind destroyed as I listened in the car; and read this review this morning.

    Fantastic album, excellent review.

    I do hear the dissonance of those low strings, but to my ears it adds tension, not annoyance. And yeah, I’d LOVE to see/hear this band live!


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