“A light in the black, or just a fear… of the dark”. Many of you will recognize these words as those of Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson. The message is simple: expect the unexpected. Such wasn’t the case when I could lay my eyes on the cover of Sworn’s ‘The Alleviation’ for the first time. And honestly, I have no idea where this album came from. Wait, is that a light I see in the distance, or…?
The song titles don’t really give away much of the musical direction, neither melodic Nordic black metal or black metal in general. Titles like ‘Heart of Decay’ and ‘The Beauty of my Funeral’ remind me more of something gothic. As if that weren’t enough, the band’s logo resembles a pokémon. This is going to be good.
But, what’s this? No haunting keyboards, no racketing about with orchestras or choirs… nope, none of that. A stray sample and the inevitable dull violin-hymn ‘Derived’ aside, Sworn play traditional black metal with clear melodic riffing and power-chording in between. And fiercely, too, might I add. Vocalist Lars Jensen has a fantastic crackling scream that tears through flesh and bone alike and the drums are so tight that if they could produce spandex, not even Siegfried and Roy would wear it. Then fast, then slow, then none at all when a clean intermezzo pops up. It makes me wonder if this record would have sounded even better with faster and longer blasting in songs like ‘The Beauty of my Funeral’ and ‘Vivid Visions’.
I have to say that some parts do sound like they could have been written by Dimmu Borgir in their ‘Enthrone Darkness Triumphant’ days. Remember the passages in ‘Spellbound’ where the blasting would flow into that well-known melodic second part? Well, you’ll have a flashback or two as these seven tracks pass by (e.a. ‘Crow of Passage’), although Sworn tend to keep the tempo higher on these moments. Don’t expect a Dimmu Borgir clone, though. These guys tend to stick to their roots.
So, turn off ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and stop playing with your pokéballs. Tracks like ‘Vivid Visions’ and ‘Alleviation’ will blow you off your seat. Sworn’s first full-length effort is a decent one. To go back to metaphores: that light at the other end of the tunnel stays interesting until you reach it, but don’t expect the rush of a train coming straight at you.
2. Heart of Decay
3. Silhouettes of a Broken World
5. Crow of Passage
6. Vivid Visions
7. The Beauty of my Funeral
Gřran Hope - guitar
Lars Jensen - vocals
Leif Herland - bass
Tom Ian Klungland - drums