Of all the genre labels on Metal Archives, none does a worse job of capturing a band’s sound than Vetter’s. “Folk/Viking Black Metal” accounts at best for about 10% of Vetterkult, the 9-year-old project’s debut album. The rest is a dizzying patchwork of musical styles that, taken as a whole, defies categorisation. Few modern albums are as daring in their scope as Vetterkult – from recent years only Cave In’s White Silence comes to mind – but none offers so unified a whole from such diverse strands. Half the fun of Vetterkult is puzzling out what makes it work as more than just an eclectic mixtape put together by a broad-tasted fan of heavy music.
Running through the album’s main arteries is a bloodstream of avant-garde black metal: a cryptic hybrid of Kénôse and Dialogue with the Stars, cloaked in the cavernous production values of recent old-school death metal. Yet only three of the album’s nine tracks showcase Vetter’s distinctive take on black metal. Almost as important to Vetterkult’s success are its three ambient tracks: opener ‘Over Havet’ is a masterfully dense work of synth orchestration and atmospherics that displays a grasp of the craft to rival Coil or David Sylvian. ‘Stenklang’, on the other hand, slides unnervingly between metallic soundscaping and eerily minimal, Wagnerian horns.
Then there are the real assaults on the listener’s idea of what does and doesn’t belong on a black metal album. As well as the above, Vetterkult boasts a slab of bass-driven sludge (‘Brennoffer’), some fine Sabbathian doom (‘Brattefoss’) and, most impressive of all, a very trad-sounding folk rock song (‘Peters Vise’) worthy of Fairport Convention or The Albion Band, though in the most Norwegian way possible.
All this together may sound like a trainwreck of an album, and on first listen it’s bound to raise a sceptical eyebrow or two. But, as mentioned above, one of the most engaging things about Vetterkult is that, given a few chances, the pieces do actually start to fit together: you start to hear traces of one song’s style in other songs, and eventually an image of the single deranged mastermind behind the album begins to emerge. Much like kindred spirit Tarihan’s Hohe Tannen, Vetterkult achieves the impossible dream of uniting ancient tradition with fiercely modern metal. Such albums come along once in a decade, and for that reason alone, deserve to be heard.
Stream Vetterkult in its entirety and buy the CD from the Demonhood Productions bandcamp.