The majority of Bilskirnir output tends to be a swirling vortex of raw and archaic black metal: clunky drum machine rhythm patterns; gusts of treble distortion; shrieking vocals muddied within the sinkhole of hissing static and clanking pulses; a crackling, sometimes flattened sound… In other words, many of the elements that are the beating block of organ meat that is Bilskirnir are also the very same that are found at the heart of black metal and also tend to be source of criticism for those who don’t get black metal. Speaking for myself these are all things that tend to be an essential in a solid black metal album that I respect and will listen to whether it be a gritty little demo or a professional studio effort. Bilskirnir’s prevailing style has been somewhat of a blessing and a curse, tending to be extremely primitive and almost amateurish in technicality early on yet still able to capture so much heathen soul and furor in his blizzard of hissing treble, agony spawned lung bouts, and simple but effective melodies that it’s virtually impossible to not respect and recognize what he does when confronted with it even if it might superficially sound like another Burzum clone (WHICH IT CERTAINLY FUCKIGN ISN’T).
Honestly, I’m fairly new to this band having only heard the series of his work spread out over large expansions of time and in partials, i.e. not full albums, but for some reason recently I’ve had a sort of craving for Bilskirnir due in part to recent episodes of Branikald listening and then the next thing I know Bilskirnir released a new album, Wotans Redividus, so I’m coincidentally in the mood for Bilskirnir and he also releases one of his best albums to date. There’s just something so captivating and genuine about his songs, they have a combination of folk rhythms and the songs also have some meat to them without losing the “grimness” in sound but certainly feeling more fluid AND ,well, solid overall and as much as I love each of the ten hymns to old pagan Europa presented here there are a few that seem to really stand out a bit more for me than the others: “Never Dying Light”, “Blood and Spirit”, “Wotans Redividus”, and “Soehne Muspells” for example.
“Soehne Muspells” just has this energy and punkish “in-your-face” sonic muscle in the tempo and approach from the first rhythm intro where the guitar is less distorted and hidden in effect but still has the right amount of fuzz buzz to it and then it’s also a hook as opposed to just an intro or basic guitar pattern. This SOB stomps and really gets the blood flowing, the drums are steady and possibly real with a good combination of thump, snare, cymbal crash that gives a respectable beating thus creating this song into an effective injection of memorable anthem potency without losing the archaic pagan passion possessing it. It’s almost like a good Social Distortion song covered by a black metal band (joke), there’s a certain tone and pulse throughout the song that is friendly and deadly at the same time making it hard to explain although it might be along the line of Burzum’s “Lost Wisdom” in terms of hypnotic and primitive. And now, speaking of Burzum, “Never Dying Light” certainly has no shortage of Burzum elements and does the similar hook and groove with an up beat tempo and nice variation in the rhythm to keep the listener hooked and reeled. With a pumping bass line underneath and simple, albeit highly effective and catchy, rhythm shifts, rounded out by shrieking Burzumic wails it’s just too GodDamn infectious and fun to be diseased with whatever venereal contagion Bilskirnir carries.
The Burzum flavors are a continual presence on this album, but never to the point of diluting what Bilkskirnir has developed over years of evolution that is distinctly his own and two songs in which this is especially prevalent are “Blood and Spirit” and “Wotans Redividus” where the more pagan and folk vibes begin to take shape. Both are still highly contagious and loaded with hooks but as the album traverses from a slight folk/pagan flow in the rhythm on “Blood and Spirit” to “Wotans Redividus” the hooks begin to dissipate into arpeggiated, cleaner pagan melodies and the atmosphere sort of freezes over a bit into a folksy and even beautiful song. Again, the album as a whole is cohesive and whether it’s my listen or, by now, my 1000th , I will always pause and take notice of the craft and body of “Wotans Redividus” and it is here that the album has a bit of change from the more straightforward grooving anthem surrounding it that adds a nice balance because it IS a bit different in mood and structure but it also does not deviate enough to disrupt the albums ebb and flow.
It’s albums like Wotans Redividus that keep the underground black metal scene from completely drying up. The album is simple in sound and skill when looking at it’s parts yet complex as a whole unit and still retains a feel of old school primitive and passionate black metal explosiveness. It doesn’t need to turn more tricks than a Hollywood hooker to break even because it’s foundation relies on creating something real and overwhelming powerful rather than overcompensating through lack of content with frilly shit like symphonic, prog, technicality, industrialism, and many other common offenders to get attention. So in summary: you need to here this; you need to here Branikald; you don’t need an open mind to get Bilkskirnir!!!
Also note that this is labeled as NSBM but none of his lyrics have any political or social agenda or hate in them (I have read them) so consider Bilskirnir alongside Graveland and a few others where that line is drawn more for the pagan Europa purity ideal and nothing else.