Thall. For those of you who don’t know (which must mean you’re living under a rock or something since it’s even mentioned of the Wikipedia page for djent), thall was a term coined by Swedish septet Vildhjarta. While I despise the word, I have been heavily anticipating these Swedes’ debut album. Ever since I caught wind of their Omnislash EP, I’ve been hooked. If you’d bet that I know all the lyrics to “Shiver,” you wouldn’t be wrong. If you’d bet I make a fool of myself trying to belt out that incredible chorus every time I listen to the song, you’d win that bet. So with that in mind, I anxiously anticipated Måsstaden (which translates, strangely enough, into “the city of seagulls”).
So first things first. Måsstaden is nothing, I repeat, nothing like Omnislash. The album opens with the ominous “Shadow”, which features the characteristic jangly guitar tone that Vildhjarta uses make its slow, atmospheric debut. After this, the riffs build up into a huge wall of sound and scathing vocals announce the beginning of Måsstaden. I was completely taken aback. Where was that epic feeling? Where were those soaring clean vocals?
“Shadow” segues into “Dagger,” and once again Vildhjarta showcases its merciless aural assault. One of the heaviest songs on the album, “Dagger,” practically made my ears bleed with the insane riffs and tempo changes, transitioning between spacey ambiance and down-tuned mayhem. Although it wasn’t close to what I expected from these Swedes’ debut, the sheer heaviness (and technical drumming, chock-full of double-bass goodness) proves to be even better than Omnislash.
Vildhjarta’s guitarists, on a side note, are serious about what they do. Daniel Bergström, Calle Thomer and Jimmie Åkerström were accurate when they said every riff would “be there for a reason.” These axemen, paired with dual vocals courtesy of Daniel Ädel and Vilhelm Bladin, are the driving force behind this album. Powerful low growls permeate “Eternal Golden Monk” as verses are spat back and forth between the two vocalists. This track was previously released as an instrumental, but the vocals have brought out the song’s true potential. Following is the track featured in their first video, “Benblåst.” This track works perfectly with the record, with its metallic clanging and high-pitched wailing. The darkness of “Benblåst” paired with the following instrumental “Östpeppar” will make your blood run cold. This very sequence exemplifies how Måsstaden flows seamlessly from one song to another, the trademark of a solid concept album.
Also throughout this album the listener is hit with crazy, almost freakish guitar riffs that demand the listener’s full attention; the dark nature of this album will leave you grim and uncomfortable. In Måsstaden, Vildhjarta rely heavily on ambiance, like a ballsy version of TesseracT’s One. The songs aren’t drawn out like those found on Uneven Structure’s Februus; instead, the ambiance is brief, letting your mind wander momentarily before pulling it back into the darkness.
“Traces” is the only track on the album featuring clean vocals, but it’s still far from being classified as a happy song. If Måsstaden is indeed told in a classic fable manner, you can bet the fables mentioned are not the Disney versions, but the gruesome originals. All in all, the songs on Måsstaden are a driving force and go through more tempo changes than you can headbang to. Although the album wasn’t what I expected, it managed to be heavy, full of ambiance I can actually stomach and a dark, twisted narrative.
For a debut full length, Måsstaden is incredibly solid. These wild-hearted Swedes have created a monstrous album that is an experience akin to diving headfirst into concrete. It isn’t quite progressive metal and it isn’t quite deathcore; it’s nestled in that sublime category where genres are mixed, categories interwoven and the only genre tag you can manage to attribute to Vildhjarta is “pure badassery”. Thall.