Døden Skal Ikke Vente translates from Norwegian to “Death Must Not Wait” and it’s a good thing 2019 didn’t have to wait for some great black metal to come out, because the latest from Dødsfall is a skin-peeling melodic black metal assault. After four years of inactivity and the pickup of new drummer Telal, Døden Skal Ikke Vente finds Ishtar (the man, not the Dustin Hoffman/Warren Beatty film, although that would be cool) in a rejuvenated place, with a brighter overall sound that doesn’t diminish the frigid attack of the album.
My familiarity with Dødsfall really only stretched back to their previous album Kaosmakt, so I did the due diligence and went down the discography rabbit hole. The sense of melody and refusal to cave in to blast beat repetition was in place since the first record, 2011’s Den Svarte Skogen. Everything else is wonderfully old school, from the corpse paint to the black and white forest photography. A quick translation of the lyrics has this firmly in the “Hail SATAN!” camp, so so throw that into the black metal bonafides if you like. Moving forward, the production varies from release to release but the emphasis on riffs, dynamic and varied drumming, and an almost progressive sense of putting songs together has held firm.
Døden Skal Ikke Vente gets a bit of a facelift in the cover department, eschewing the traditional woods and black and white for an impressionistic interpretation of the album title. The kickoff track “Hemlig Vrede” lets you know immediately you’re in safe hands. For black metal, anyway. The sound is noticeably brighter than 2015’s Kaosmakt, really letting the guitar lines come through and differentiate themselves. There’s some atmospheric keyboards in places to really break the tension of the song apart, but this is a through and through face melter.
But the real gems don’t reveal themselves until the second song. “Tåkefjell” has a great mid-paced rock stomp and a massive sound on the drums. The guitar lines are really separated, with a great melody weaving through the right channel as the left takes care of the chord work. When it all comes together, though, there’s a real beauty as things open up and strings are allowed to ring out. If the description doesn’t seem particularly black metal to you, don’t worry: think a little like Naglfar (a band I miss) mixed with late Emperor and you’re kinda there. Subtle chanting permeates the song, creating a dark wash of mood and tone to everything. There’s a teeming anger throughout the album that really comes out on the faster moments, but every track, from the majestic and forlorn “Grå Himlar” with its more traditional tremolo picking and blast beats to the militant cadence of “Ondskapelse” keep their foundation firmly in the kind of melodic black metal that has been a triumphant cornerstone of the genre since the 90s.
Not even a month into the new year and the amount of quality black metal coming out is food for the hope that the genre has the legs to keep moving and innovating for years to come. Dødsfall remind us just how good this kind of metal can be, and Døden Skal Ikke Vente feels like new groundwork for some fantastic music to come. This hits all my buttons for what I love about the genre, and is going to be in steady rotation for a long time to come.