The greatest virtue of Sweden’s Jordablod is that they sound like a band. “But wait,” you say, “aren’t the vast majority of the albums reviewed on this site created by bands?” Well yes, but sometimes albums sound more like the product of several people playing things that were lumped together in post-production, and some albums sound like the products of bands. Jordablod sounds like dudes that have spent countless hours just getting a feel for their bandmates. How many dudes, or if they’re even dudes, is unclear, because Jordablod is myyyyysteeeeeerious. But for all the extreme metal elements, deft riffery, and attempts to hide their identities from public sight, debut full length Upon My Cremation Pyre sounds downright loose.
The looseness, as well as a lot of the album’s riffs and rhythms, ought to remind black metal’s old guard of classic Master’s Hammer, while the band’s penchant for getting a little psychedelic in their application of leads and reverb should remind younger fans of Negative Plane, specifically their second album. However, Jordablod never feels quite as artsy as these bands. Their mix of traditionally minded riffage with a raw, underground vibe comes closer to a band like Faustcoven. But instead of classic doom being the primary old school ingredient, Jordablod prefers blackening some epic NWOBHM to a crisp.
Throughout Upon My Cremation Pyre, the music weaves and warps organically, with tremolo riffs becoming less rigid leads or great solos (great solos), drums letting go of blasts for some shuffling or classic metal double-kick action, and the bass constantly switching between providing a foundation and being part of the leads. The vocals are the one element that keeps the album grounded in a blackened vibe, as the rest refuses to be pigeonholed. This is black metal that was raised on Hawkwind, but never had Oranssi Pazuzu’s effects pedal budget.
At its best, the album just jams. There is structure here, to be sure, as heard in the intense crescendo of “Liberator of Eden” or the blasting furor of “A Sculptor of the Future,” but there is a sense that nothing is set in stone. The band could be playing “Chants for the Black One,” and when one band member winks at the others, they decide to switch around the big, climactic hits slightly. Maybe the bass goes up instead of down. Maybe the guitarist switches octaves. It doesn’t matter, really, because that is all hypothetical, and not about this actual album. But that is the feel of it, that the band has absolutely mastered the feel of it.
The album’s limitation is that it might sometimes rely a bit too much on this feel. At over 50 minutes with only seven tracks, Jordablod obviously has no qualms stretching things out, and sometimes this comes at the expense of truly exciting “anchor” moments, even if the band’s chemistry and jamming capabilities stay strong throughout. It’s a serious double edged sword: attempt to cut the song’s down, and the band may lose that great looseness, keep it as it is, and they risk not developing a strong identity. In truth, they really only need a few more passages like the chilling lead harmonies in “Of Fiery Passion” to be in serious business, so it ought to be a small adjustment.
Because this is only their first full album, the odds are high that a band of this talent level will iron out the kinks naturally. It’s rare to hear a group of musicians sound this comfortable with each other, even rarer when they’ve only been a band for two years, and damn near unthinkable for a band that is even tangentially “black metal.” Personality goes a long way, and Jordablod has heaps.