Album Title: The Lyricist
Label: Agonia Records
Date Of Release: 16 March 2018
Around the turn of the millennium, Dimmu Borgir were a huge part of my life. And so, when Tjodalv, or Ian Kenneth ‘Tjodalv’ Åkesson departed in 1999, I was all over the band that he had created a year earlier. That band was Susperia, named after the horror film, ‘Suspiria’ but with a spelling alteration to avoid copyright issues going forward. The debut album, released in 2001, was entitled ‘Predominance’ and I rather liked it.
At this point, Dimmu Borgir could still be referred to without too much hesitation as a black metal band, unless you happened to be one of the ‘trve cvlt’ brigade who thought that you couldn’t be ‘proper’ black metal unless you danced around the forest in corpse paint and recorded your music inside a biscuit tin. I’m being flippant of course, but the point is that Susperia offered something markedly different from the output of Tjodalv’s previous employer.
Tjoldav, joined forces with guitarist Terje “Cyrus” Andersen (Old Man’s Child, Satyricon) and then recruited vocalist Pål “Athera” Mathiesen, Christian ‘Elvorn’ Hagen, and Håkon “Memnock” Didriksen to the cause. Together, theirs was a much more blackened thrash metal output at the more melodic and accessible end of the extreme metal spectrum.
I occasionally still listen to ‘Predominance’, but not as much as I perhaps thought I would at the time. The same is true of the four subsequent releases also. It is fair to say that I do like Susperia, but even with the occasional assistance from ex-Dimmu keyboardist Øyvind Johan “Mustis” Mustaparta, I have never been what you call a ‘die hard’ fan, more of a mildly interested observer.
However, I think that the nine-year hiatus between 2009’s ‘Attitude’ and this sixth album may have helped Susperia, because despite my general malaise, I was very interested to hear this record. I was surprised to learn that in all that time, the only line-up casualty has been vocalist Pål “Athera” Mathiesen, who departed in 2015, to be replaced by Bernt “Dagon” Fjellstad. I was also surprised, on a first spin, just how much I liked ‘The Lyricist’ too – it was like hearing an old friend in many ways, albeit an old friend that you didn’t realise was such a dear old friend. ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’ indeed.
‘The Lyricist’, in effect, is the reminder to me that Susperia are a lot better and more important to me than I thought. The press release alludes to the fact that this album marks a return to the band’s early days and I’d certainly agree with that. On more than one occasion, the echo of ‘Predominance’ is audible as the black metal element within the ‘blackened thrash’ descriptor is much more pronounced than it has been since the debut.
Don’t believe me? Just listen to the second track, ‘Heretic’ for a firm example. Those riffs, that atmosphere – it all screams ‘Predominance’ to me and in a very good way. It rips along at a great pace, led by some ferocious drumming and a touch of malevolence within both the riffs and the lyrical content. The lead guitar lines drip with dark intent and the stomping chorus gets my head bobbing nicely.
But take a step back and focus on the opening salvo for a moment in the form of ‘I Entered’. The blend of black metal rawness, the overt aggression of thrash, and the melody all combine to great effect. It is heavy, powerful and actually massively addictive as I have found out after a fair number of spins. But what gets me the most is the groove that laces the song as well as the atmosphere and the vocals of ‘newbie’, Bernt “Dagon” Fjellstad, who soars imperiously over the chorus and other melodic moments later in the track, adding an undeniable anthemic edge.
Speaking of ‘anthemic’, I’d direct you to the monstrous and imperious stomp of ‘Whore of Man’ where, bar the occasion frenetic blast, it is a measured and highly effective slice of mid-tempo power, laced with some excellent melodic intent. Then there’s the title track which comes out of the gates at a lick. But rather than sticking to this blueprint for its entirety, Susperia deliver a cool prog-like riff before descending into a doomy plod and then catching me out with a huge, melodic chorus, with some great lead guitar embellishments.
The black metal overtones return with vengeance within ‘Void’, which benefits from some sharp, icy riffing as well as some fantastic blastbeats, yet manages to vary the tempos to stave off any complaints regarding one-dimensional songwriting.
If I had one reservation with ‘The Lyricist’, it’s that it contains a couple of fillers here and there where the quality dips ever so slightly. It is this that prevents the album from throwing Susperia into the stratosphere where some of the material undoubtedly belongs. I still really like ‘The Lyricist’ and I know for sure that there are certain songs that I’ll gravitate back to in the coming months. Overall, ‘The Lyricist’ is a very good album, but falls short of being an essential addition to the collection. If you’re a fan of this band or this style of music in general, check it out nonetheless, because you may well disagree with me.
The Score Of Much Metal: 8.5
If you’ve enjoyed this review, you can check out my others from 2018 and from previous years right here:
Structural Disorder – …And The Cage Crumbles In the Final Scene
Necrophobic – Mark of the Necrogram
Divine Realm – Nordicity
Oceans of Slumber – The Banished Heart
Poem – Unique
Gleb Kolyadin – Gleb Kolyadin
Apathy Noir – Black Soil
Deathwhite – For A Black Tomorrow
Conjurer – Mire
Jukub Zytecki – Feather Bed/Ladder Head
Lione/Conti – Lione/Conti
Usurpress – Interregnum
Kælling – Lacuna
Vinide – Reveal
Armored Dawn – Barbarians In Black
Long Distance Calling – Boundless
In Vain – Currents
Harakiri For The Sky – Arson
Orphaned Land – Unsung Prophets And Dead Messiahs
Tribulation – Down Below
Machine Head – Catharsis
Bjorn Riis – Coming Home EP
Twilight’s Embrace – Penance EP
Bloodshot Dawn – Reanimation
Rise of Avernus – Eigengrau
Arch Echo – Arch Echo
Asenblut – Legenden
Bleeding Gods – Dodekathlon
Watain – Trident Wolf Eclipse