Bunkermetal returns with a vengeance as Drottnar further refine the dark metal genre they created in this full length collection of the Monolith eps released over the last year, held together with three new tracks.
If you go all the way back to 1996, you can find the origins of Drottnar in the Norwegian black metal band Vitality, one of the first black metal bands to challenge the anti-Christian mentality the characterizes most of the black metal genre. Since that time, the band has matured and their sound evolved from more typical black metal to what has been come to be called “bunkermetal”, a technical, chaotic offshoot of black metal. Their full length albums Welterwerk (2006) and Stratum (2012) both show an evolution of this style which continues into Monolith. Along the way, the band has performed with bands like Extol and even played the legendary Cornerstone Festival during a short US tour in 2008, a show I was lucky enough to see. Appropriately enough, Monolith was recorded at Der Bunker and was mixed and produced by Jock Loveband and vocalist/guitarist Karl Fredrik Link at Urban Sound Studios in Oslo with mastering handled by Chris Sansom at Propeller Mastering Oslo.
For the uninitiated, Drottnar have created their own genre, “bunkermetal”, which to my ears is a combination of Norwegian black metal with technical death and strong industrial overtones. The overall tone is dark and cold and everything proceeds in march-step fashion fitting with the Eastern European military uniforms they are famous for wearing on stage. This full length is mostly a compilation of the parts I, II, and III that were released over 2018 as eps, combined with three new songs that didn’t appear on the eps. One of the new tracks, “Afterglow” opens up the album and features primarily some ominous sounding slower guitars bordering on the verge of feedback with the tone you would expect to hear on Norwegian black metal album, think Antestor. After an abrupt ending,drums reminiscent of machine gun fire explode from the silence announcing the start of “Funeral of Funerals”. The song itself proceeds from there into what is a somewhat melodic pace, punctuated by Glenn-David Lind’s bass drum beat . Glenn-David’s drums really stand out in this track and highlight the strong producton. Everything just seems loud, from Karl’s abrasive dark black metal vocals to the near droning black metal guitar parts, but nothing is lost in the mix and there is a sense of precision in how the song is arranged and spaced. Surprisingly, this is also one of the more approachable Drottnar songs I remember.
“Aphelion” begins more similar toward what some might call traditional black metal but again shifts toward the melodic, keeping in mind we are still talking technical black metal. Blast beats are absent but again the drum patterns are complex and driving and fast when needed. The guitars have that distinctive Norwegian black metal tone which I sometimes describe as somewhat painful, but in a good way. “Subterranean Sun” almost has a groove feel to it at least as much as any black metal song could. Either way that main guitar riff is catchy. Between the melodic sections there is some chaos creeping in as the songs have tended to get darker as the album progresses.
The overall tone shifts darker and heavier for the driving, pounding “Axiom” and continues into “Charagma” which begins to introduce more of the bunkermetal style found on Stratum. Rhythms become choppier and adopt more of a machine-like industrial feel as things begin to veer toward the chaotic in terms of overall song structure and progression. It’s almost like at this point in the album the band changed into the military uniforms they’ve worn on stage. The new instrumental “Ophir” though, relatively short in duration provides a bit of a breather as the album progresses into songs that become even heavier, darker and more chaotic than the rest.
Karl Fredrik Lind’s vocals take on an even darker, more desperate tone in “Nihiliords” as the music adopts an almost doom feel in parts, with Glenn-David’s drum work again standing out and moving the song in different directions. As the album moves into the track off the Monolith III ep, there is no escaping the darker, more desperate feel of the music. As “Pestleid” progresses, the listener is left with the feeling that things are spiraling out of control and but there is still a sense of control to hold on to as the song twists and turns, while even the opening of “Antivolition” does not even try to hide what is to come. Meanwhile the title track “Monolith” begins with a full on doom metal feel and carries that same heavy darkness. Throughout much of the six minute track pained guitar riffs and odd drum rhythms punctuate the silence as Karl Fredrik’s strained black metal vocals and whispering play more of a supporting role. The last new song “Eschaton” closes out the album and immediately brings a brighter tone that Monolith and a slow, near marching cadence that quickly touches chaos and picks up the pace a bit with Glenn-David’s double bass drumming moving things along until its abrupt end.
While the beginning of Monolith is some of the more accessible music Drottnar has produced recently, as the album progresses, there is a continual slide toward heavy darkness and the more militant sound they have become known for, an evolution of bunkermetal. There is beauty in chaos and Drottnar has managed to capture that in Monolith.
Written by John Jackson
02. Funeral Of Funerals
04. Subterranean Sun
Release Date: 8 Feb. 2019
Record Label: Endtime Productions
Karl Fredrik Lind – vocals, baritone guitars
Håvar Wormdahl – bass
Glenn-David Lind – drums
“Doom of Antichrist” (demo, 1997)
“A White Realm” (demo, 1998)
“Spiritual Battle” (compilation, 2000)
“Anamorphosis” (EP, 2003)
Ad Hoc Revolt 7″ (EP, 2006)
‘Lucid Stratum’ (Single, 2012)
“Stratum” (2012) [review]
“Monolith I” (EP, 2017)
“Monolith II” (EP, 2018)
“Monolith III” (EP, 2018)
Video for ‘Funeral of Funerals’