While its roots stretch back to 2005, it wasn’t until 2021 that black metal listeners were properly introduced to Bizarrekult and their take on the genre. Vi Overlevde showcased founder Roman’s vision of merging the second wave black metal of Norway with melancholic and somber moments that pulled in some outside genre influences. I found it to be an album that started off a little too straightforward and didn’t really begin to pick up steam until around the halfway point as the experimentation really began to pick up, but it remained an effort worth revisiting in the time since. Album number two, Den tapte krigen, finds Roman and crew taking the melancholic and beautiful elements from its predecessor and expanding upon them significantly. The results are an album that falls between modern and traditional black metal while also capturing some gothic and post punk textures, and it’s a fantastic example of an artist finding their own identity.
Bizarrekult hasn’t fallen completely into what might be considered post black metal these days, as there are still plenty of moments where the guitar and bass offer up jagged and raw riffs that have that same bleakness and violent outbursts that one would expect. But opener “Du Lovet Meg” makes it clear that listeners are in for a significantly different experience this time around, as there’s an immediate balance between the harsher and melodic sides of the spectrum. The songwriting tends to sprawl outwards and embraces periods of restraint and calm, melancholic exploration that reminds me a bit of 90s gothic metal and death/doom without losing the black metal foundation. Some of the later tracks even have a bit of post punk gloominess, but Bizarrekult brings everything together in a way that feels fresh and consistently hooks with powerful and breathtaking climaxes. The one-two punch of “Kjære barn” and “Løslatt” are stunning, with shimmering melodies that get under your skin and give off an introspective mood while still having quite a bit of bite to them. Certain points give off similar vibes as more recent Shining, offering that gritty inward-looking type of writing while still being happy to punch you in the face when you least expect it. I was hoping all these elements from Vi Overlevde would be expanded upon, but Den tapte krigen takes it further than I expected and offers up a thoroughly engaging and moody listen that also gives Bizarrekult more of an identity than before. A few of the longest tracks may be slightly overstretched, but that’s a minor criticism for an album that has had me in its grips from the first few notes.
Roman’s vocals are once again oriented towards the harsher side of the spectrum, but you’ll immediately notice that the singing that appeared on a few key moments on Vi Overlevde is used much more frequently now. Where Dina’s somber and reflective singing was more of an additional nuance before, here it feels much more woven into the songwriting and the softer passages make great use of her. This integrates well with Roman’s raspier and abrasive screaming, giving Bizarrekult a nice mix of light and dark throughout Den tapte krigen. Even the harsher ranges have a bit more variation on this effort, coming in as more tortured during the reflective instrumentation and more violent and in your face as the riffs kick up into a frenzy.
Vi Overlevde already had a lot to offer, but it felt like it was hinting at bigger and different things still to come and that’s exactly what Bizarrekult has done with album number two. The aggressive and chilling side of black metal has been merged with more introspective and melancholic arrangements, making for material that remains engaging from beginning to end. A few moments may feel overstretched, but overall this is an exciting evolution for the band and an early 2023 highlight for black metal. Roman seems to have a more confident vision for where Bizarrekult fits within the genre, and I’m interested to see where the group goes next. Den tapte krigen is available from Season of Mist Underground Activists.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg