Much like Shining or Lifelover, Höstblod takes an eclectic approach to depressive black metal. There is as much time dedicated to soft contemplation as there is sorrowful desolation, and a variety of instrumentation is implemented beyond the usual blasting drums, biting guitars, and shrieking vocals. They even include off the wall moments like the children singing halfway through “Tomheten Del 2” and what sounds like accordion and banjo on the closing “Tystnaden.”
One-man projects are nothing new in this genre, but a true mastery over instrumentation sets Höstblod apart from similar entities. The standard guitar and drums are played well enough, but the extensive piano, violin, and acoustic parts are executed with professionalism that doesn’t forsake the emotional intent. It isn’t technical stuff by any means, but it wasn’t too surprising to hear that creator Johan Nilsson is classically trained.
Mörkrets intåg is an incredibly emotional album, written as Nilsson was coping with his mother’s illness and subsequent passing. Although the lyrics are all in Swedish, the pain behind them is incredibly palpable. “Höstblod” is a particularly heartbreaking listen as vulnerable vocals are carried by a softly swelling structure. Vocal performances, both clean and harsh, can be a little spotty, but they’re far more effective than the overblown sobbing commonly associated with the genre.
Höstblod isn’t the purest black metal project out there, but its debut album is a stunning mix of eclecticism and emotion. Such professional musicianship that would threaten to diminish the pathos only enhances it, and the instrumental dexterity keeps the stylistic transitions from descending into disjointed gimmickry. A debut so heavily inspired by a traumatic event can not and should never be replicated, so it’s hard to tell what to expect from its creator in the future. Whether or not future endeavors will be under the Höstblod banner, I’ll be looking forward to what comes next.