Skogen - Vittra
Nordvis Produktion
Atmospheric Black Metal
9 songs (56' 54")
Release year: 2009
Reviewed by Andy
Archive review

The re-release of Skogen's first LP, Vittra, leaves one with mixed feelings. Vittra was a good album atmospherically, but even six years ago it was hardly unique; after all, Fen and Wodensthrone both released their first albums that same year, and before and after that year the atmospheric black metal world got dogpiled by more generic, mediocre soft-folk albums than I even want to think about. And yet there is still something about Vittra that appeals. I think it's the sense that its creators are willing to deliver an atmospheric sound without getting too comfortable, sleepy or repetitive, and though it's never going to be a particularly exciting album, it has its moments.

The album starts out slowly in Dimfärd, giving plenty of room for acoustic passages and whistling-wind sound effects, and the rhythm guitars, leashed tightly by the production so they don't overwhelm anything, blast multi-string chords that are light on the mid-range to the background of hoarse, clean chanting, while the rhythm of Skuggorna Kallar switches to one used (and often over-used) by latter-day Amorphis -- but with both band members taking turns on the almost 100%-growled black metal vocals, listeners who disapprove of clean singing won't be bothered by any folksy duets. While the atmosphere is by no means uplifting, there isn't the same aura of loneliness pervading this album as there would be on, say, a Fen album; the vocals give the feeling of a calm, peaceful solitude rather than an agonized one. The production on the album is fine and tightly controls the instruments, allowing synths to make it in without making anything sound fake; on Ur Mörkret Hon Kommer, the synth sneaks into the verses almost without anyone noticing, followed by Höst, a pretty acoustic-guitar piece.

Nice-sounding though it and its companion, Skymning, might be, I couldn't help but heartlessly observe that little interludes like this, done by so many Scandinavian bands too many times, really sums up both the commitment to variety on the part of Vittra and its ultimate doom of getting lost in a pile of sound-alikes. Not that Skogen stops trying, and they hit pay-dirt a few times, such as on Under Fullmånens Sken, a flatly strummed mid-tempo piece with not only a bit of heaviness but more cleverly-mixed synth, accompanied by a hollow-sounding guitar solo that makes it stand out -- and wakes the listener up a bit after all those slow pieces. The slowness of the following and final track, I Skogens Djup, stands in full contrast to it; its distorted, tremolo-picked riffs and unconventional double-kick drum fills are good, but the song is slower than most songs on the album and it takes effort not to lose patience with its rather meandering structure, ending with a very realistic sample of gently falling rain.

There are good things to be said about Vittra, and though it was never a particularly groundbreaking release, it was a fairly good one. Though most metal fans will probably not be particularly interested, I think listeners to nature-themed folk/black metal would enjoy giving this one a spin once or twice.

Killing Songs :
Under Fullmånens Sken
Andy quoted 72 / 100
Other albums by Skogen that we have reviewed:
Skogen - Eld reviewed by Alex and quoted 80 / 100
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