Änterbila is a relatively new addition to Swedish black metal, but they’ve come out of the gate with a powerful, driving sound and concept that differentiates their material from some of their countrymen. Formed in 2020 by guitarist/bassist Jerff, the group explores aspects of Swedish history rarely explored in metal, with this year’s self-titled debut focusing on the servitude and hard lives of the peasant population in the 18th to 20th centuries. Musically Änterbila takes these concepts and lets their fury fly with faster, punkier black metal and hints of folk that helps to break things up, and while they’ve left themselves with room to further expand upon their ideas this is a very strong and confident start.
While the music is completely different, it’s interesting to have experienced two black metal albums over the last few months that explore the lives of ordinary working people as seen through a historical lens. Givre’s Destin Messianique looked at the roots of their home territory of Quebec through a more mystical and atmospheric black metal, where Änterbila goes for more traditional black metal fury through driving tempos and injection of the occasional folk element. There’s a good amount of second-wave influence at work here, as well as the punkier and rock tempos utilized by bands like Taake, with the opening of “1704” feeling like it would fit quite well on a Taake record. Änterbila is able to switch up the formula throughout the album, varying the tempo or sneaking in some hints of folk melodies, though admittedly given the faster tempos and brevity of the material some tracks do still run together on repeat listens. What intrigued me about this album were the intro and outros which use violin and acoustic guitar to create somber melodies that give off an early Ulver vibe, and while you do get some of this interspersed in between the actual black metal on songs like “Hemlängtan” these elements do feel a bit underutilized. Wherever the band chooses to go they’ve given themselves a strong foundation to build on though, as the production is suitably raw and these riffs smack you in the face on a consistent basis.
The majority of Änterbila’s current lineup was assembled earlier this year, but it’s clear that Jerff made a good choice with vocalist Agg as his raspier screams suit the band’s style perfectly. His vocals boom over the recording with a commanding presence, giving off a confidence that not every group has this early on, and the shift over into some slightly cleaner yells on tracks like “1704” and “Södermanland” adds some variety to the performance. “Torparens dotter” even goes for some chanting that leans some more towards the folk end of the spectrum, and while there’s a familiarity to many of these approaches the subtle shifts in the vocals do make a difference.
Änterbila brings an interesting concept and plenty of abrasive riffs with them on album number one, and anyone that likes the swagger and energy of Taake and other similar bands will find a lot to like here. The quick twenty-seven-minute run makes this a quick burst of black metal that is easy to digest, even if some songs fall into similar ideas. I would like to see the folk side expanded upon and perhaps integrated further into some of the main songs rather than left primarily as intros and outros, but this is an exciting beginning for a band I’ll be keeping an eye on. Änterbilais available from Nordvis Produktion.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg