lack metal fans have a reputation for dogmatic purism, and I can certainly attest that I almost dismissed Bergraven without even listening to them, simply by virtue of their being labeled "experimental." This wasn't a reaction founded in narrow-minded traditionalism, but rather the knowledge that any black metal band that chooses to refer to themselves as "experimental" almost inevitably seems to have been formed by embarrassed ex-Darkthrone worshippers who, in an attempt to present black metal as a "legitimate" art form, proceed to rob it of everything that makes it exciting—Satan, blasphemy, corpse paint, recorded-on-a-four-track-in-a-forest production—and substitute an endless parade of what they presumably believe to be more artistically respectable novelties—parping synths, operatic vocals, saxophones, the list goes on.
The opening moments of Dödsvisioner’s first track, "Döende,” were therefore a huge relief. Those three minutes of goofy, spooky noises signify that this is black metal in its true spirit—morbid, oppressive, and utterly not giving a fuck what some smirking, scarf-wearing hipster might think of the straight-faced presentation of its cheese-laden imagery. And just in case you were still in doubt, a monumental, churning riff accompanied by the good ol' Norwegian black metal rasp confirm that these guys take themselves completely seriously. There are unique touches here which explain the "experimental" tag—bizarre acoustic accompaniments snake around the riffs, which themselves sometimes more resemble Isis-informed percussive pummeling than the bleak melodicism of most black metal. But there's plenty of room for musical exploration in the genre as long as that core spirit is there, and Bergraven evidently have it in spades.
Of course, spirit is only half the equation—no matter how hellishly misanthropic a band are, if you can't pen a good tune it's all for naught. Unfortunately, following the first track's success, Dödsvisioner's flaws in this regard begin to become apparent. While Bergraven may not fit the mold of "experimental" black metal, they certainly come close to embodying another popular notion of so-called avant-garde music; lots of interesting ideas, few solid songs. Moments like the slithering bassline and crooked arpeggios of "Ondkall,” the spiraling riffs of "Den Svarta Angstens Essens," and the mournful dungeon-folk intro of "Det Man Med Själen" resemble scenes in a bad student art film; appreciable, even beautiful in their own right, but weakened by a lack of any apparent congruity when placed in the context of the work as a whole.
Dödsvisioner presents enough of these individual moments to at least be an enjoyable listen, but any emotional impact the album has on the listener ends the moment the punishing drone of closer "Döende (En Avslutning)" fades into silence, the entire experience utterly forgettable. For a genre that often possesses a remarkable ability to induce a child-like sense of awe and mystery in the listener, Dödsvisioner ultimately left me feeling empty.
Reviewed by: Ben Good
Reviewed on: 2007-07-18