I never guessed I’d come to a point where I was standing at the crossroads between hardcore and melodic power pop/punk, but here we are, gazing into the odd juxtaposition of Natur, the new album by the Norwegian assault of Ondt Blood. Filled with equal parts cutting aggression and an almost sunny sense of late 90s punk riffage, its melodic sense is entirely couched in a riotous call to arms against the oppression against the Sami, the indigenous peoples of Norway who, similar to many other cultures around the world are being wasted away by policies aimed to benefit everyone but themselves. This anger and alignment with the downtrodden is carried through in the waves of sound that require no translation.
After two EPs debut album Finnmark presented a rough but eager sound already looking to marry that sense of modern rock radio with the decidedly more extreme nature that serves as the bedrock for Ondt Blod’s sound. And that bedrock is an angular, nasty piece of hardcore that recalls pieces of Dillinger Escape Plan, Converge, and metalcore acts like Every Time I Die. There’s nothing forced or engineered about the “metal” component, and tracks like the lo-fi intro nastiness of “Symbola” or the punishment of “Tragedien Kommer” hammer home that the band can bash with the best of them. But then you’ll get the almost quaint refrain that leads to a classic chorus in the aforementioned song, or the more overt hooks of “Nye Lydspor” and it causes a head-turn. Open chords meet with double kicks and while it’s a little smile-inducing it certainly doesn’t seem too out of sync with what other bands have tried in the past.
That genre divide is significantly widened on Natur. Right from the get-go the title track moves from an ultra aggressive maelstrom to a FM ready harmonized summer chorus that feels like someone changed the station on you behind your back. The next track “Andre Liv” starts off with this vibe, and what surprisingly is how much better it works when there’s no subtlety involved. This isn’t a sly wink and a nod to a half buried influence; by incorporating such distinct and overt melodic sense in their music Ondt Blod are ensuring they’re staying to their ideals not only as a metal band, but as advocates for change. Lyrically songs like closer “Giron” speak to the life of the Sami people, even featuring traditional singing (known as a joik) or conjure up the desire for a more natural life, away from the tyranny of industry and the problems of a modern and oblivious culture. Wrapping this message in a biting metal package with enough hooks to get on the radio ensures band can reach those that want to hear it. And when there’s hooks like on “Med Ulver” and “Når Sirenan Sakte Dør” you’re going to want to heart it.
It’s refreshing to hear a band refuse to hide their more pop leanings and instead embrace them. Ondt Blod double down on that dichotomy on Natur and craft an album the doesn’t sound like anything else coming out in metal right now, and it’s a stronger album for it. As the weather starts to warm up here, I’ll be coming back to to taste this particular blend again and again.