Let’s cut right to the chase here; no lengthy prosaic introduction. Not that Svart, the fifth album by Swedish black/thrash/death metal band Feared, would call for such gimmickry anyway: it’s in and out your ears in around 25 minutes, with a few hooks placed throughout to hopefully reel you back in for rounds two and three.
Founded by guitarist Ola Englund and vocalist Mario Santos Ramos in 2007, and currently fleshed out by supplementary members Jocke Skog (bass) and Kevin Talley (drums), Feared’s music revolves around thrash-y tempos and rhythms, death metal-styled vocals and a distinct black metal/NWOBHM melodicism. These elements can all be found in Svart’s nine tracks, and are, at least for the most part, tastefully executed (more on that later).
After the short introductory track “Nar allt blir svart”, “King of the Dead” comes in hot, pummeling ear-drums with a blistering drum rhythm and accentuating guitars. The mid-tempo riffing that follows hits hard, especially in combination with the competent mid-ranged vocals; those two components of the song gel together particularly well. Add in a memorable chorus and a tasty guitar solo, and you’ve got yourself a very straightforward but rewarding opening track.
The soft piano and hushed strings of “In i dimman” pave the way for “Your Black is My White”, another mid-paced stomper. It comes armed with an interesting opening riff garnished with effects, groovy verses and an explosive guitar solo. The way the individual parts are stringed together feels a bit clunky at times, especially in the transition to the half-time ending section, but not enough to derail the flow too much.
My main criticism with Svart lies within its lyrical content. Hidden behind the considerably diverse vocal delivery by Ramos lies some of the most atrocious lyricism I had to endure in quite a while. At their lowest (read: in offenders like “Hate Mantra” or “My Next”), the words set to music here come across as the violence-fetish ramblings of a grumpy fourteen-year-old who got sent to bed without dinner. Luckily it’s not as bad in most of the other tracks, but with the bar set so low, that’s not really surprising now, is it?
Which is a shame, really, since the music, when not marred by the sub-par lyrics, actually has a lot to offer. “The Mare”, for example, is a veritable riff-fest, underpinned by ominous lead flourishes in the background and propelled forward by a dynamic, heavy-hitting drum performance. When the gloomy ambiance is placed at center-stage towards the middle of the song, it ushers in one of the most intriguing sections of the whole album, as the following epic guitar and vocal trade-off and final guitar solo grow out of that slow moment in spectacular fashion. Afterwards, the instrumental finale “Blodspår” sends the listener off on a high note with a beautifully-orchestrated mélange of clean guitars and brilliant soloing by Englund.
When three out of nine track on your record are instrumentals (and short ones no less), you’d better make sure that the rest of them are scorchers across the board. Sadly, this is simply not the case on Svart. Weighed down by what I perceive to be abysmal lyrics and some songs that range from forgettable to downright offensive, not even the two or three solid ones can keep Feared afloat this time around. A short, concise album runtime only works if you’ve got the material to show for it, because every flaw might end up eating up valuable time that could’ve been spent with something far superior, in this case with more tracks like the final two. As it stands, though, Svart by Feared is an ultimately mediocre record with a few incredible highlights.
Notable Tracks: “King of the Dead”; “The Mare”
FFO: Skeletonwitch, The Black Dahlia Murder, Kreator