Drottnar are a special band. Formed in 1996 under the name Vitality by four brothers, Sven-Erik Lind, Karl Fredrik Lind, Glenn-David Lind, and Bjarne Peder Lind, this Norwegian band was one of the first bands to play black metal with lyrics that challenged the anti-Christian and nihilistic ideology typically associated with the Norwegian black metal scene by expressing Christian ideas and views in their songs. In 2006, they even functioned as live musicians for the (in)famous “unblack metal” project Horde.
During the more than 20 years they’ve been around, Drottnar’s line-up, sound and image have changed quite a bit. While their first two demos could be described as viking black metal, their music got more and more progressive, technical and chaotic on the subsequent albums. From the early 2000s on, Drottnar adapted a quite unique image by adding militant elements, such as the use of megaphones, Soviet uniforms and gas-masks to their live shows, mocking actual Nazi and Communist regimes. Their two full-length albums Welterwerk and Stratum had a peculiar style, which the band themselves call “bunker metal” due to its militant imagery and bunker-like atmosphere. In late 2017, Drottnar, now a three-piece band, released Monolith I, which would be the first of three digital EPs. In January 2018, Monolith II was released, and this month the series will be brought to a close by Monolith III.
Monolith III is probably the least accessible of the three EPs. Although the groove and melodies of the first two parts of the series are still present, they are given a lot less space to get to the listener, because they are burried under technical guitar riffs and challenging, complex song structures that result in an atmosphere of confusion and darkness.
Over the short span of only 15 minutes and three tracks, Drottnar manage to suck the listener right into a fascinating and terrifying apocalyptic world. Playing highly technical and dissonant black metal without losing the listeners attention can be like a walk on a tightrope, but luckily Drottnar know exactly what they are doing and balance these elements masterfully. However, as stated before, this EP is far from being accessible. Not only is the music heavy and complex, the lyrics also leave a lot to the listener’s interpretation and demand a high level of intellectual investment. It probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to listen to this record without having listened to Monolith I and II before. The EPs get subsequently less melodic and more obscure and challenging and should be listened to directly one after another for the best effect. While Monolith I had memorable melodic chorusses and the dark atmosphere of Monolith II was often eased by melodic organ riffs, Monolith III offers almost no moment of easing. The last moments of the EP’s closing track “Monolith” are indeed slower in tempo, but they lose nothing of the heaviness and suffocating darkness of the rest of the record. When the last sounds of “Monolith” subside, you are left in a state of exhaustion, but it probably won’t be long until you’ll want to listen to these tracks again. Monolith III is not my favourite part of the series and took a few listens to really grow on me, but it is a logic conclusion to the series and should be seen as the final act of a three-act concept album. And as such it works beautifully.
With the Monolith series, Drottnar have proven that they are still a force to be reckoned with, a band that isn’t afraid to experiment and constantly evolve their sound. That makes them a progressive band in the true sense of the word and one that you definitely shouldn’t overlook if you like your metal extra black and extra challenging.
Monolith III will be released digitally on May 11th via Endtime Productions and can be preordered from the band’s Bandcamp page.