Stortregn – Impermanence
Progressive Technical Blackened Death Metal … that’s a mouthful, but it’s a precise way to describe the music that Stortregn has been making since 2006. “Impermanence” is the 5th full length from the Swiss quintet and I can tell you right now that it’ll be in my Album Of The Year list. There are a couple of important things to know about this album: every song segues into the next one, there are multiple bass solos and a couple of classical guitar passages that have a blastbeat for accompaniment. Let’s dig right in.
‘Ghosts of the Past’ has a very cinematic intro and then it’s straight to business. Between Romain Negro’s snarls and the dual lead guitar motif from Johan Smith and Duran Bathija this song starts strongly and it only gets better with every riff, the highlight for me being an unexpected bass solo from Manuel Barrios that reminds me a little of Cliff Burton’s style. I like Romain’s gutturals more than his snarls, but for this particular flavor of tech death the snarls are the better fit. A short classical guitar transition and we land on ‘Moon, Sun, Stars’ and another bass solo to fire this banger up. The frantic and relentless beat that Samuel Jakubec keeps throughout practically the whole song really glues all the melodies and stop-and-go riffing together. This is one of my favorites in the album, and the last minute with the relentlessly repeating 6-note phrase that transitions into a 5/8 ostinato for the start of ‘Cosmos Eater’ was an excellent surprise. The music nerd in me grinned a lot with that transition. This one was one of the promotional singles, and it represents and showcases the band quite well. There’s a bit of everything, including time changes, 2 excellent guitar solos and a return to that odd ostinato, all that before a break that does a 180º change, dropping the tempo and taking the song into a more “traditional melodic death metal” direction. Another solid track and another of my favorites.
Stortregn – Cosmos Eater (click here if the video doesn’t play)
There’s a bit of breather with the title track, ‘Impermanence’, as it starts like an intermission of sorts, until the whole band kicks in for an aural experience full of dramatic soundscapes and virtuosity, including a 5/8 passage that sounds a bit like something out of Opeth’s Blackwater Park. ‘Grand Nexion Abyss’ starts with another superb cinematic introduction followed by an immense wall of sound. With every song Stortregn attacks you with layers upon layers of intricate melodies and machine gun drumming. For some, the approach to riffs and repeating themes might seem excessive, and they might get saturated by those kinds of songs, but I love how they’ve done it. That almost ubiquitous 3-note arpeggiated motif is the heartbeat of the song, and it’s been used across a couple of songs quite efficiently. We continue with ‘Multilayered Chaos’, which is another excellent choice for a promotional single. It has a solid start reminiscent of late Death and early Obscura riffing, but with the melodies and blackened death metal influences intact. Johan’s work on classical guitar is tasteful and gives another dimension to the songs, especially on this one.
Stortregn – Multilayered Chaos (click here if the video doesn’t play)
‘Timeless Splendor’ starts with a modern slow black metal, almost black’n’roll vibe, but that changes quickly into the technical blackened death metal that by now should be more than familiar to anyone listening. Here Manuel gives us another excellent bass solo with a cool modulation based on the main motif, upon which Johan and Duran build a great harmony that evolves into a couple of very classic heavy metal guitar solos. And we come to the last song in the album, ‘Nènie’ (a.k.a. the song that is suddenly in french). Consistency is key with these guys, as there’s always a melody driving the song and a frantic riff beneath it. This one is no exception, but for the last 2 minutes they go to an anthemic section that one would expect to find in a more straight heavy metal song, à la Helloween or dare I say Iron Maiden, and they nail it!
“Impermanence” is a superb record, a pure example of what progressive technical blackened death metal sounds like. Is it ground-breaking? Not really. Is it over the top? Yes, almost to the point of being cliched. But is it excellent music? That’s a resounding yes from me.
- Ghosts of the Past
- Sun, Moon, Stars
- Cosmos Eater
- Grand Nexion Abyss
- Multilayered Chaos
- Timeless Splendor