I have been in contact with Lord Theynian, the founding member and figurehead of Dødkvlt, for several years now. I reviewed his first record back in 2009 and conducted a couple of interviews with him around that time and around the time he was releasing II in 2011. Hearing his style evolve and change from album to album is actually one of the more exciting things about the project. From the first record’s roughly progressive leaning black metal stylings to II‘s more thrashy consistency, III‘s more symphonic approach, and the doom-influenced tone of the tracks contributed to the split with Goats of Doom – it’s always exciting to hear where Theynian chooses to move the project’s sound for each recording.
Tonally this record appears to combine elements from all of the previous releases. The first half definitely leans closer to a blackened thrash kind of aesthetic although each track has more than a few left turns. At its most straightforward moments, As The Darkness Descends Upon Us, you have perhaps Dødkvlt’s most anthemic song to date. It’s a very melodic track that is easily the most accessible track on here (if that means anything to you).
For me it’s the second half of the record that really caught my attention though. The final three tracks are much closer to the progressive side of the project that has been hinted at in every record but feels like it has finally been embraced wholly here. Intensity that borders on death metal evolves into beautiful ambiance. Angular guitar passages that move into dissonance and then back into harmony. Theynian really allows his song structures to roam wild for the most part within this half and that really gives the entire record a more rounded feeling. In some ways this half of the record reminds me a bit of the most record Mayhem record, 2014’s Esoteric Warfare, in how it balances more traditional aspects of black metal with weirder and more progressive ideas.
The final track, This Is The End of All is really the most ambitious piece of music I’ve ever heard from Theynian. It acts almost as a summary of the entire project in a single track. At just over 21 minutes in length, he does more than an admirable job of justifying that length. There are sections in it that cover territory that I have never heard the project dive into before (and it honestly appears to dip its toes into straight-up prog-rock occasionally).
In this, from what I understand to be the project’s final release, Theynian enlisted the help of Nikke Kuki (Status Abnormis) on drums to give this album a more authentic quality – in terms of the drum sound I mean. While I think this was an interesting choice, I’m not sure how much it really altered the sound of the project. Still being dictated by Theynian, the drumming here never stood out as being that distinctive to me.
In terms of qualms I have with the record – it actually does come down to the production on the drums, specifically the sound of the kicks. For the most part I would say that drum production is quite good. It sounds authentic and natural, which is refreshing and is something I believe was the intention of utilizing a real drummer was what Theynian had in mind. Having said that, the kicks on this record are just way too compressed for my liking. On the first half of the record there are sections where the kicks (specifically during sections of double-bass and blasting) just overwhelm the rest of the instruments. I found it quite frustrating especially since the rest of the instruments take a decidedly more raw approach.
Overall it’s a really good record that has something for you whether you prefer more traditional approaches to black metal or the more adventurous side. I hesitate to call it the best record from Dødkvlt (my favorite might still be the debut) but it’s definitely the most complete sounding and contains some of the project’s best material.