Remember being a kid and trying to start your first band? Those awkward high school days where your attempts at original songwriting end up sounding like covers of the bands you’re into at the time? I went through that phase in a big way –– and much to my dismay, there weren’t too many kids in my school that wanted to hear contemporary attempts at AC/DC or Maiden. (And they certainly didn’t want to hear it from pudgy, zit-filled kids with long hair.)
Alas, the guys in Oslo’s Sarke have the same problem. A Norwegian black metal supergroup, they’re neither kids, nor particularly new at all this. Yet eight years and three albums in, the band’s never been able to shake their influences from their sound’s blackened sleeves. And unfortunately, that remains the case on their new, fourth album, Bogefod.
So let’s talk about those influences. No matter how many smatterings of different bands you’ve heard in Sarke’s sound over the years — Bathory, Candlemass, you name it — there are still two in particular that stand out: Celtic Frost and Darkthrone. The latter’s an obvious, almost comical presence, given that it’s vocalist Nocturno Culto’s main squeeze, yet it still plays second fiddle to the former in the band’s sonic hierarchy.
To their credit, Sarke’s sound feels a little less beholden to their heroes this time out. Maybe a teeny, tiny bit, at least. Tracks like “Taken” and “Alternation” attempts to chart new courses for the band, with riffs that combine the shrill tones of black metal with a more gradual, sweeping, mid-tempo pace. For a bit, it’s almost enough to make you forget these guys are totally beholden to their influences… and then Nocturno Culto slaps you across the face with a half-assed roar so closely resembling Tom G. Warrior’s that you’d think you were listening to a resurrected Celtic Frost. (You’d certainly wish you were, at least.)
I’m not being entirely fair to Bogefod here. The album has its moments — the nimble riffage of “Blood of Men”, the whirlwind of aggression in “The Wicked’s Transient Sleep”, etc. — but these just come too few and far between to have much of a lasting impact. Set aside these occasional glimmers of hope, and all the band can really do is tread water in a sea of sounds other bands have articulated better. (Which makes the album feel a lot longer than its nine-song, 34-minute run time.)
I’m not trying to shit on Sarke just to shit on them. This isn’t a bad album per se, just an utterly forgettable one. I’m not sure why you’d listen to this when you could instead listen to any of the myriad metal legends the band’s trying to emulate here. Sure, you could do a lot worse than Bogefod, but you could also do a lot better.
Keep it heavy,
Bogefod is available March 11 on Indie Recordings. For more information on Sarke, visit the band’s Facebook page.