It has literally been twenty years since my first exposure to KAMPFAR. I reviewed their sophomore effort, Fra Underverdenen, and was quite impressed with their sound. True, the band is Norwegian Black Metal, but their focus is more on the Pagan side of things. Satan is nowhere to be found. Like ENSLAVED, though, the band has used their music to promote their homeland’s culture. The secret to their sound is the blend of classic Black Metal and Classical/Folk elements. It is to the listener’s benefit that such elements meet and form a unique hybrid sound.
A band with twenty-five years’ experience has the benefit of identity as the future is an open book in which endeavors will be written. That in no way means, though, that KAMPFAR adhere to a strict formula. Rather, the band is cognizant of where its advantages lie and the direction to be taken. Again, all of this is to the benefit of the listener.
Ofidiands Manifest is a breathtaking homage to the olden days of longships, raids, and plentiful mead. With regard to the band’s earlier material, it is exceptionally impressive for their evolution has been nothing less than extraordinary. Why the band has not achieved greater acclaim is elusive for the quality of the material is equal to and far superior to many of their contemporaries.
This is an album of atmosphere. Beginning with “Syndefall,” the album launches into rabid fury. Carefully constructed riffs play off each other sounding like repeated slashes of a razor into skin. It becomes immediately apparent how key the bass is to the band’s sound. Instead of being buried in the mix or having to compete with the equalization of the guitars as on many others’ albums, the low end is full, audibly sitting comfortably in its own frequency range.
It is with the arrival, however, of the third track, “Domians,” that the album really gets going. Beginning with distorted organ and a loud horn seemingly signaling the proceedings to come to order, there is an elegant anthemic quality introduced. Again, the bass plays a major role in the creation of this massive sound. This is not blazing fast Black Metal but rather steady, pummeling, pushing even. One is swept away to a world of fantasy filled with the many characters of Norse myth with a fitting soundtrack to those ancient tales. Hearing the maturation of this band is pleasing as the fact that they have come a very long way over the years is readily apparent within. “Eremitt,” the fifth track, is another highlight. Within is an almost desperate feel. Since the lyrics are not in English, I am forced to form my own meaning to the songs but such speculation is welcomed.
Musically, the band is playing at the top of their game. The interplay of guitar tracks specifically is of interest as while one handles the main riff, another plays a dissonant arpeggio that darkens the sound. All this is done without making it sound cluttered, though. With such a strongly enforced bassist, the guitar is free to have a more adventurous role. the mystique is thus created with the addition of solid yet creative drums and signature vocals. It is refreshing to hear veterans of the second wave of Black Metal hold their own – and more!