Review: Bhleg – Äril

Bhleg, which is an ancient word for ‘black’, is a black metal band that hails from the South of Sweden, from the city of Gothenburg in the province of Västra Götalands Län to be more precise. The line-up consists of two individuals, as they prefer to describe themselves, named S. and L., aka Simon Johansson and Ludvig Andersson. The history of the duo goes much further back than just the history of Bhleg. The guys met in 2007 and in that same year they started writing together. Why they decided to form Bhleg only in 2013 is for reasons unknown to me. Either way, apparently they wrote quite some material in the years preceding Bhleg, because since its resurrection they have released two full-lengths, an EP, a split with Nechochwen and a single, the latter of which, called Alyr, was their debut that was released in 2014. Now they are preparing to release yet another example of their writing skills, which comes in the form of a three-song, 27-minute release called Äril, hitting the shelves in September. Where Ludvig can be accounted for the bass and lead- as well as backup vocals, Simon is responsible for the guitars, the keyboards, backup vocals and percussion. On top of that there’s a few other odds and ends that combined determine the essentially cold set, yet still inviting, warmly embracing atmosphere of Bhleg’s music. The guys draw their inspiration from the much-used, illustrious source that ancient Scandinavia provides with its many tales. All ingredients that, when mixed at the exact right ratio, could form a potent piece of work.

Opener Vittra och dö (wither and die) spans almost a quarter of an hour and blends traditional black metal drums-on-speed, matching guitar work and foul growls with some subtle, lighter set keys and background hums into a highly enjoyable piece of music. The atmosphere is, as far as I’m concerned, spot-on which is not only due to the aforementioned blend, but can also equally be credited to the rather barren, almost primitive production. The slow, heavy intermezzo halfway through is a contrasting asset, contributing to the overall feel of soothing coldness. Successor Från eld till aska (from fire to ashes) opens a bit more folky. That is only short-lived, because before long it transforms into a slower set, heavily black metal influenced song that ends in a sweet melodic fashion that brings back the folky influence. It also seamlessly provides the transition into closer Skördetid (harvest time), which is by far the moodiest song of this release. Even though its atmospheric, slow set-up invokes a burdening atmosphere as it is, the slow, dragging growls add a little extra grief for good measure, leading this release to a fading end.

And with Skördetid softly fading out, Äril ends. A shame really, I have thoroughly enjoyed every single second of this way too short release and if I had anything to say about it, it might have gone on for at least another hour or so. There is absolutely no doubt that Bhleg is formed by a talented, capable duo, who know exactly what they are doing. Each component of each song is carefully thought-out and meticulously placed within the structure of the song with a great eye for (atmospheric) detail, which can also be said from the production. A definite recommendation from me here.

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