KVAEN - The Formless Fires

June 21, 2024, 3 weeks ago

(Metal Blade)

Martiño Lopez Castro

Rating: 9.0

review black death kvaen

KVAEN - The Formless Fires

Kvaen is a one-man band from Sweden that draws heavily from the country's extreme music scene, particularly melodic black metal, though this is not their sole musical influence. As a relatively new band with their third album in six years, their style is characterized by exceptionally clean production and a high level of musical skill, setting their work apart.

On The Formless Fire, the project's established style continues to evolve. What does that entail? Expect virtuosic and melodic leads, epic and wild solos, and songwriting that enhances the atmosphere and showcases Jacob Björnfot's, the mastermind behind Kvaen, musical talents. While the album’s direction closely follows his previous works, there is a notable improvement in Jacob’s musical prowess. Each track features guitar moments that are beautiful, technical, and memorable. Having listened to his earlier material, it’s clear that this album showcases his most personal and emotional guitar playing.

While melodic black metal is the core of Kvaen's sound, their compositions also include elements of Viking and pagan metal. This is evident in the epic background choirs, the use of clean vocals, acoustic guitars, and an overall more solemn style compared to the typical fast-paced melodic black metal. These influences are reminiscent of other Swedish bands like Bathory and Naglfar. The homage to their country's music scene is further underscored by the contributions of legendary Swedish guitarists Sebastian Ramstedt from Necrophobic and Chaq Mol from Dark Funeral on the record.

Some critics have pointed out the album's exceedingly clean and crystal-clear production, arguing that it contradicts the raw and ideologically gritty essence of black metal. The debate over raw production versus polished sound is a debate for another day, however, on this album, such a clarity allows for the appreciation of the intricate leads and solos, enhancing the epic quality of the music.

A potential downside is that the compositions on this album are somewhat less ambitious than those on previous albums. This isn't necessarily a flaw, as it allows the musical skills to shine more clearly, but it does mean that the chaotic and progressive elements from the debut are sometimes missed. Despite this, the album remains incredibly solid, direct, and well-executed, with each song surely exemplifying Kvaen’s musical vision. The way it has to be.

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