The creative minds behind Tulus, Khold, and Sarke have been on fire the last few years, releasing quite a bit of material that is up there with some of the best in their discography. Last year Khold returned after an eight-year gap with Svartsyn, which featured some of their best grooves in some time, and this year Tulus gets the chance to shine in a similar way. 2020’s Old Old Death was solid and showcased how the band’s dips into melody and 70s rock influences continued to differentiate them from Khold, but it did admittedly start to run together and fall into some familiar patterns. 2023 finds the group now in their thirty second year of existence and on album number seven, Fandens Kall, they’ve taken a look at the essence of what made their sound appealing over the years and added some extra experimentation into the mix. It’s a compact and surprisingly diverse album that may just be their best in recent memory, and proof that the collective minds behind these three groups only seem to be getting better with age.
Tulus has always been known for prominent bass lines that enhanced the rumbling grooves and driving tempos, and on Old Old Death it sometimes felt like the bass overpowered the guitar. Fandens Kall finds a better balance between the two, bringing back some of the bite from the band’s previous discography while still letting the low-end shine. Initially it sounds like listeners are in for another dose of the type of black metal and black ‘n roll the group thrives on, as the first few songs bring that same swagger mixed with icy cold tonality. Had Tulus stayed on this same track for the entire album much like they did on Old Old Death, they would’ve had some undeniably catchy riffs and intense energy on display, but once you get a little further in the diversity and strength of the writing really comes into play. Around the halfway point of “Isråk”, the abrasiveness subsides and a very rock ‘n roll sounding guitar solo plays over a moodier bass line. Fandens Kall continues this diversity with songs like “Samuelsbrenna”, “Sjelesmerte”, and “Bloddråpesvermer”, which have hints of everything from progressive rock and doom to darker folk. These additional flourishes really help the individual songs to stand out more than before and create a tense and mysterious atmosphere in between the grooves. It’s a decision that pays off for Tulus, and while they’ve experimented with some of these elements before, here everything comes together a bit more seamlessly.
Blodstrup has been with the group since their first demo in 1993, so chances are good you’re familiar with his raspier scream if you’ve listened to a Tulus or Khold album over the past few decades. There’s something to be said for his consistency, especially when the intensity and sharpness of each word is just as strong now as it was in the 90s. One of the things I’ve liked about recent Tulus material is how balanced the vocals are with the instrumentation, as they’re given enough room to come through with clarity but don’t overpower the rest of the details. While there are plenty of surprises and shifts when it comes to the songwriting, there are slightly less on the vocal front. The exception to this is “Sjelesmerte”, where Blodstrup trades off with guest singer Lena Fløitmoen who brings an ethereal and folky pitch that makes that track feel much more dynamic.
It may take a few songs before Tulus breaks from their tried and true approach, but the flourishes of experimentation and additional melodies go a long way in making their seventh album one of their best yet. There are a lot more passages that stand out upon repeat listens, and it’s clear that the group has capitalized on their strengths while not being afraid to try some new things. Fans of this style now have two heavy hitters from Norway thanks to Slegest and Tulus, and it’s exciting that the latter only seems to be getting stronger three decades in. Fandens Kall is available from Soulseller Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg