Face it, hosers: 2016 has not been a great year for black metal thus far. Fans of the genre have been left grasping at straws to find something worth listening to. Sure, there have been exceptions like Glorior Belli, Howls of Ebb and perhaps Kawir, but 2016 has has not bandied about the amount of black metal that most of us would like to see. But it’s not as bleak as the landscape may appear. Enter Ygfan, who culls outside influences and inserts them into an entirely unique brand of black metal. The end result is something that fans of black metal can easily latch onto.
Originally self-released in 2015, Köd has since been reworked, picked up by a label and distributed on physical, tangible formats. The label puts out such comparable acts as An Autumn for Crippled Children and Svarti Loghin, but where Ygfan differs, aside from live drumming and a lack of electronic/synthetic affectations, is their ability to climax their compositions with traditional sounding black metal complete with growling vocals. Thus, their songs come across as wholly organic compositions from a group that doesn’t compose within a vacuum of black metal.
The third track is perhaps the most exemplary of the EP, which opens simply with clean guitars that mimic a Kinsella brothers project more than they do any of the foundational first or second wave black metal heroes. The opening is long and mournful with bird calls inserted throughout; making the listener more likely to assume it’s Dianogah, Tortoise or other instrumental indie band more than a black metal act. But as the track slowly builds from indie to grunge to ambient, the influences become one; melded into a form that is experimental or progressive but still black metal. There are blast beats, although infrequent, and there are other hallmarks of the genre, but the atmosphere and overall musical take rings true black metal.
Other compositions on the EP run just under five minutes and tend to open with a flourish. Those tracks, with their treble heavy distorted guitars, muddy growls and cymbal crashes are more in line with pagan black metal and are perhaps more serpentine in their composition and aggression. The drumming, in particular, is inventive, jagged and unsettling, calling to mind a near jazzy, psychedelic rhythm. When paired with the active bass work, which bounces around at huge intervals, the rhythm section creates a jaunted marching feel is both off-kilter and completely driving.
Köd is a solid addition to what are merely a handful of black metal albums that one can look to in 2016. While black metal may not catch up to death metal’s output in 2016, Ygfan prove that black metal will continue to evolve due to its foundations which create a perfect palette upon which to layer sound and flavors. With experimentation, courage and vision Ygfan have carved out a niche space for themselves in the world of organic black metal.