Stilla - Ensamhetens Andar (2014)
Review by Trevor Proctor
Ensamhetens Andar is the second album from Sweden’s Stilla; a four piece black metal band from Northern Sweden whose music is as progressive and varied as it is black. Active since 2011 and signed to Nordvis Produktion, this is the follow up to 2013’s debut full length Till Stilla Falla – an album that garnered much critical acclaim.
Nordvis Produktion is an independent record label located in the woodlands of Västerbotten, one of the most northern counties in Sweden. Nordvis like to work with musicians who base their music around native traditions and folklore stating “We are not oriented within certain genres and we gladly embrace different styles, where we can celebrate the consistency of melancholy and unique atmosphere.”
Released on February 10th 2014 via Nordvis Produktion the album surpasses the 48 minute mark and features seven tracks of the blackest metal interspersed with doses of symphonic elements throughout that create enough variation in sound and style to help create a sound and atmosphere that are definitely individual, and very well suited to Nordvis’ aims of celebrating melancholic and unique atmospheres.
From the opening, meandering bass riff of the first track, Vandring Utan Spar, it’s blatantly apparent Stilla’s sound has a lot to offer the listener in terms of variation in style; that bass line gives way to a more traditional black metal sound punctuated with symphonic effects in the background yet this is still a track that shifts from speed to speed and style to style with no drop in quality or musicianship whatsoever – that bass line returns for the closing minute or so and adds yet again to the varied yet effective soundscape created by Stilla; an excellent track to begin the album and also a great indication of what’s to come.
The album’s title track follows; over eight minutes long it’s the longest track on the album and one that yet again refuses to be pigeonholed into any particular style. It starts with traditional sounding black metal that gives way to a simply stunning acoustic section, that’s part of the attraction with both this track and the album as a whole; it never sticks too rigidly to any particular style or tempo for more than a few minutes. Yes, there are plenty of traditional black metal elements to be heard but also peppered throughout the album there are many different styles and tempos with a strong injection of symphonic aspects and musical quirkiness.
Another example of this is the track “Hjärta av sten” which starts as a dreamy, slow paced track only to descend into a maelstrom of more traditional black metal after a few minutes, again proving the musical variation Stilla are capable of and are not afraid to experiment with.
Ensamhetens Andar at times sounds like traditional black metal but what Stilla have managed to do is take a traditional sound and splice it with their own take on the sub-genre adding atmosphere, symphonic elements and other variations in sound to ensure the album never fails to surprise and impress. The vocals are in Swedish but this does not detract from the album in any way - a very impressive release from a band with the balls to stray from a well beaten path in order to create their own version of atmospheric black metal, do not overlook this Swedish gem it’s laced with quality from start to finish.
1. Vandring utan spår
2. Ensamhetens andar
3. Till slutet
5. Hjärta av sten
7. Skuggornas dop.
Ensamhetens Andar is available now from Nordvis Produktion.