Since forming Mork back in 2004, Thomas Eriksen has provided listeners with a steady stream of material that captured the essence of Norwegian black metal. In the past two years alone there have been two full lengths and an EP, with the latest material coming in the form of Katedralen earlier this month. Building upon the rock-solid foundation that Mork has laid down over its previous four albums and smaller releases in between, Katedralen brings a noticeably clearer sound and bigger production values alongside some more dynamic material.
Mork has always captured that same rawer sound and aggressive yet catchy approach to riffs that brought Darkthrone and some of the other influential Norwegian bands to mind. Katedralen continues to do this style of black metal justice with jagged and rough-edged guitar work, but this time there have been some noticeable changes to both the production itself as well as the scope of the songwriting. The first thing listeners will likely notice is the added clarity to the recording compared to the band’s past discography, with the emphasis on the guitar and bass giving these songs an immense yet approachable feeling. Where a lot of black metal goes for a sound that’s as dense and noisy as possible, the compositions are given some breathing room on this album and given how much additional melody and shifts in dynamics Eriksen offers listeners this time around it makes a difference. Songs go from more straightforward icy blasting into slower burning passages where atmosphere is king, and in between that even channel some punk and rock ‘n roll leaning moments that remind me of the more stripped down approach bands like Tulus have employed on their more recent efforts. It’s still not radically changing anything Mork did before, but there’s a sense of refinement to the material that makes it damn catchy to listen to from beginning to end. Also worth mentioning is the guest appearance of Skepticism’s Eero Pöyry, who provides keyboard work on the first and last song that contribute to that haunting and eerier atmosphere.
Eriksen’s vocals remain as abrasive as ever, and his raspier pitch often feels like it has jagged edges that slowly stab you in the throat over the course of each song. There’s a similar level of power and swagger that made a number of the influential Norwegian bands so enticing, and the performance here consistently comes close to that level. With the increased clarity of the recording the screams stand out even more this time around, and there’s a good balance overall between instrumentals and vocals. Mork has utilized some well-known guests on some of their previous material and that’s once again the case on Katedralen, as “Svartmalt” brings back Nocturnal Culto (Darkthrone, Sarke) after his appearance on Den vandrende skygge and “Født til å herske” has Kampfar’s Dolk. The guest spots are integrated well and make those songs in particular highlights for me thanks to how well they fit in with Eriksen.
There isn’t anything about this material that’s going to change your mind if you’re grown tired of that familiar Norwegian black metal sound, but for someone like me that continues to appreciate the power of that icy tonality and a well-written riff Mork’s latest is a must listen. With a more dynamic sound the songs have more staying power and distinguishing elements than you might expect, and while it’s not quite a future classic this is still a noteworthy release and one of the best Eriksen has put out to date. Given how quickly Mork albums and EP’s seem to pop up you’d expect him to have run out of steam, but albums like this prove that the project only seems to be getting better with each passing year. Katedralen is available from Peaceville Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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