Tsjuder – Helvegr (Album Review)

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Tsjuder – Helvegr (Album Review)

In the world of Norwegian Black Metal, there are few names as synonymous with uncompromising consistency as Oslo’s dark sons, Tsjuder. Formed in 1993 as Ichor by Jan-Erik Romøren aka Nag, the band etched its foothold during second wave Black Metal’s formative years, though they remained apart from the sensational turbulence of those days. Releasing albums somewhat sparingly, Nag and his longtime collaborator Halvor Storrøsten, aka Draugluin, have returned after eight years with Helvegr, their sixth studio album, released on Season of Mist records with the advent of a revamped logo, and the departure of their longtime Drummer Antichristian. will Helvegr illuminate Tsjuder’s place in the world of Black Metal, ensuring they retain their reputation?

Fans of Heavy Metal music are loyal, discerning people, but often difficult to please. As “Iron Beast” roars out of the speakers to begin Helvegr, the listener is beset by the storm of riffs and brutal drumming attack with which any Tsjuder fan worth his corpse paint will be familiar. In some circles, it will be said that the band doesn’t evolve enough. Yet when bands go off and become experimental, very often this is met with scorn and accusations of ‘sellout.’ So, what gives? As the plummeting aircraft intro of “Prestehammeren” leads to a build-up of tension, and the song explodes forth in the signature Hellhammer meets Discharge battery, it becomes clear that it is quite possible to stick to a sonic template and spend three decades expanding within said template. The break at 2:40 would make Razor fans drool onto their bullet belts, as thrash is never too deeply hidden in the Tsjuder repertoire.

Some of their countrymen have managed to experiment and then return to the signature sound; 1349 springs to mind. Tsjuder have resisted wandering away from their worship of old Bathory, and we are better for it. Nag and Draugluin make riffs. That’s what they do. “Surtr” has a fullness to the guitars, a deliciously ugly nod to the whole damn watershed moment that was second wave Black Metal. The riff storm is buoyed in the studio by Jon Rice of Job for A Cowboy, who it appears is filling in just to lay down the album in the absence of Antichristian. Whatever one’s opinion of that band, here the drums sound massive and murderous. Proper Black Metal – the opening fill on “Faenskap og Dod” is pure evil.

As they are wont to do, Tsjuder ratchets down the pace on the intense title-track, again letting some stacked open chords do the talking. Triumph and confidence paint this one in shades of black and red, with a guitar solo quite reminiscent of 1990s Death Metal. The boys are a bit more likely to bash in the listener’s skull with pure Black Metal firestorms like “Gamle-Plum.” Under four minutes of stripped-down pummeling, with Nag’s shredding vocals leaving no survivors.

Regardless of how many takes on the Black Metal sound we see – and there are many that crib the sound but leave the evil on the shelf – there is always room for the dark spirits who pay continuous homage to what makes the style so great. Tsjuder once again laid waste to the competition, joining fellow countrymen Immortal and Enslaved with extremely strong showings in 2023. The old guard isn’t done yet, and with Helvegr, Tsjuder returns to slam down the spiked fist of Satan with authority. For everything discussed, Cryptic Rock gives Helvegr 5 out of 5 stars.

Tsjuder – Helvegr / Season of Mist (2023)

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