Blodarv – Civitas Diaboli
Reviewed by Oct 22nd, 2009

Blodarv has been releasing music for about ten years now and has released some weird and brilliant black metal in that time. Though technically their only full-length was Soulcollector: The Thousand Years Tale, there have been a total of about nine releases including splits (Deamonis and Mysteriis), demos (Murder in the Name of Satan, Mysteriis, and Beyond Life), EPs (Heksen and Beyond Life) and MCDs (Linaria Amlech and Civitas Diaboli). This time around, Hugin (music and vocals) and Huul (bass) are joined by Pest (also of Sepulchral Cries) on guitar, Satanae Ma taking over the duties of additional vocals, and session drummer Ynleborgaz.

The band started off as Hugin’s solo project, and the early material had more in the way of classical, ambient and industrial influences with lyrics about witches, demons, and of course, sacrificing cute little babies to the devil; later the storytelling-like nature of the lyrics was expanded upon by adding additional vocalist Isaz to the lineup for Beyond Life‘s “Langt væk fra Livet” and several songs on Soulcollector. I found this initially horrifying but it grew on me; one reason Blodarv is so great is their willingness to not sound like every other black metal band out there today (the other reason is the great music).

I keep hearing people calling them depressive/suicidal, and this disturbs me because I don’t think they are so easy to classify, perhaps things lean that way a bit more in the more recent material though; and also because I associate most suicidal/depressive BM with high-pitched, annoying screaming over a lot of really slow and boring guitar work (not always true, but by and large). It could be the subject matter, and they have their less-aggressive sounding moments, but I refuse to label them in that way. The guitar parts are too good and there is too much diversity in the music. I also hate 99% of “depressive BM” vocals due to the overwhelming amount of high, Varg-like shrieking; and I think Hugin has a really unique and versatile voice.

The title track and “Until Nightfall” have been up on the myspace for the better part of a year now, and while I liked “Until Nightfall,” I was sort of concerned about how representative of the other songs on the MCD these two were. “Civitas Diaboli” is rather on the fast side, but there is something almost alarmingly-cheerful sounding in the verse part, though it grew on me after a while also. This was the first song that showed up streaming on the myspace and later the video was posted, and that sort of scared me. It’s a good thing for bands to evolve, and Blodarv has definitely changed and evolved over the years; but with these two songs as previews, I sort of missed the guitar parts in the vein of something like “Forseglet Forevigt” or “Under Satans Vinger.” (Thankfully, there are memorable guitar riffs on the album, and that was my main concern.) I liked “Until Nightfall” better, which is a slower song with a simple yet effective guitar part and a catchy sounding chorus section. While it sounds nothing like “Langt væk fra Livet,” it sort of has the same dismal sort of atmosphere, and the same could probably be said about “Natteskarn.” “Call of the Frost” is another ambient instrumental track. “Winter of Alice” has some keyboards, but is fairly tastefully done.

Overall, I think it’s a pretty good MCD, though I do wish there were more proper Blodarv full-lengths. There are six songs here, one of which is an instrumental. Some of it seems a bit more on the slow side than previous releases, though “Blood Red Rocks” is a bit faster, with very fuzzy guitars. I still don’t know how effective I think the addition of Satanae Ma’s vocals are, they are used fairly sparsely. I don’t like singing in BM very much, though Isaz’s vocals on Soulcollector grew on me after a while, and I suspect I can get used to Satanae Ma’s as well. There is nothing wrong with them, it’s just my dislike of singing. It retains the catchiness, memorable guitar parts and unique atmosphere of earlier Blodarv material, but does seem to be going in a slightly different direction. Nice booklet and presentation as well.

Civitas Diaboli has just been released by Mexico’s Self Mutilation Services in two versions, the regular MCD version and a special edition in A5 format with a patch included.
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