Supplying extreme music from Sweden drenched in that “dirty rotten old-school death metal sound” since 2007, as guitar/lead vocalist Mattias Frisk put’s it, Vanhelgd have been adding more meat to the bone of their sound with each release. Having mastered their personal concoction of death, black and doom metal, Vanhelgd have been blazing a path of destruction in the underground metal scene since their debut album Cult of Lazarus. Having just released their fifth studio album Deimos Sanktuarium on October 12th via Pulverised Records/Dark Descent Records, Vanhelgd create a darkly dynamic landscape full of remarkable riffing, macabre screams, and tortuous song structures.
Initiating the album with crushing heaviness, “A Plea for Divine Necromancy,” is a perversely poetic offering that is as enrapturing as it is heavy. The bridge right before the hook, prompted me to want to scream the word “necromancy” alongside lead vocalist Frisk, as well as bang my head. The opening track uses a combination of gripping lyrics and sheer heaviness to set the tone for the despondent road that lies ahead.
Enriching the musical atmosphere of Deimos Sanktuarium in a more traditional black metal sense comes the next two tracks, “Så förgås världens härlighet” and “Vi föddes i samma grav.” The former introduces infernal vocal layering and the latter is a shining moment for drummer Mathias Westman, who blasts his way through his drum-kit and pummels through drum fills throughout the second half of the track. Both tracks see guitarist/vocalist Jimmy Johansson accompanying Frisk in the wicked, remarkable riffing and vocal duties. Let it be clear that although I mention the word “traditional” above, there is nothing necessarily traditional outside of the aforementioned notion. This album has riffing on it that is reminiscent of classic black/death metal bands, but is only a small element that comprises the massive sound of Vanhelgd. The band also shares a piece of their native tongue on these two tracks and the closing track “Här finns ingen nåd,” by interweaving Swedish vocals with the other songs sung in English.
“Profaned is the Blood of the Covenant” proves it’s power through the reiteration of dark, ritualistic vocal phrases and brooding instrumentation. This song puts an emphasis on the rhythm section, where bassist Jonas Albrektsson is certainly highlighted for his thundering string efforts. Producing a droning relationship between the primitive percussive elements and the mystical picking of the clean guitar, this track has a hypnotic presence that provides a blackened break in the middle of the song. The song’s structure creates a nice rise and fall that sees lead vocalist Frisk progressively getting more sinister as the song builds. The song fades out slowly with the same guitar sounds that created the body of the song, ultimately leaving nothing but the sound of a bell that introduced the song.
“The Ashes of Our Defeat” is a song where the bands slower, doom-laden sound really comes through. Very slow and heavy instrumentation create a ceremonial atmosphere, as well as a John Tardy influenced vocal style. This track paves the way for the slowly building, guitar infused introduction of perhaps my favorite song on the album “The Silent Observer.” The song commences with a putrescent riff and bell riding groove that erupts into a blasting segment. The screams of Frisk develop into stirring cries of lunacy as the speeding riffs pair in harmony, fueling my exhilaration. Old school textures provide this song with layers of classic speed and round the song out with deep chanting, appealing to the ceremonious atmosphere of the track prior.
The beauty about the unique sound that Vanhelgd produce, is that it comes across effortlessly. Sure, they blend different elements of various metal genres that have been done before. Whether it be the blackened speed riffs heard throughout the album or a smothering of doom-laden power sections, but none of it seems forced and each part finds it’s place in the music naturally. The music on Deimos Sanktuarium lends itself to an overall atmosphere and a bigger picture in their sound with each song meant to be heard in full, not fast forwarded through.
Seeming to have always upheld their artistic integrity and not tell you what to think, Vanhelgd leaves the interpretation for each of their works open to the listener. You will not find an explanation or meaning behind any of the music that the band creates roaming around the internet, as Frisk believes it will take away from the possibilities of the listener to make a personal connection to the music. An enticing factor about Deimos Sanktuarium for me is that the band pulls from all sorts of extreme influences to create a dynamic sound, not adhering to one specific style throughout the entire album. What they do from there seems to involve a high level of passion in the form of death, destruction, and blackened ecstasy.