There was a time when the notion of atmospheric black metal was a relatively novel one. These days, there seem to be a handful of releases that fit that description released every week. Atmosphere, it seems, is not necessarily the hardest thing to generate. But despite being somewhat overpopulated at this point, this peculiar subscene is still capable of hurling magical records into the ether. “Livslede” is a genuinely startling debut from a Danish band with obscene amounts of potential. It doesn’t deviate dramatically from the atmospheric black metal blueprint that we know and love (or hate), but it hits the target with disarming accuracy time and time again, delivering countless melodic highs and moments of gloriously unsettling ambient scree.
After the customary eerie intro, “Ensomhed” lays down the post-metal gauntlet to all comers, exhibiting a viciousness and sense of muscular momentum that many like-minded bands abandon in favour of hazy mystique. SUNKEN are an absolutely ripping metal band, for all their romantic and surrealist pretentions: blastbeats and keening discord underpin the anthemic yearning of melodies and chord progressions that very often sound like choruses, even amid hyper-hammering chaos, which is sustained for most of the song’s 12-minute duration. Faint shades of WIEGEDOOD and WINTERFYLLETH suggest, if nothing else, that SUNKEN have excellent taste, but really this is a singular statement that promises to forcefully drag its multifarious source material toward a sharper, brighter future. “Foragt” is another monumental epic, steeped in fragile melancholy but performed with rabid zeal, it veers nimbly into clattering post-rock territory before another heart-rending, triumphant final crescendo. In wild contrast, “Delirium” reins in the aggression and takes a sideways meander into blackened dream pop territory, before mounting gloom conjures another overwhelming barrage of crestfallen guitars. The closing “Dødslængsel” is the most extravagantly euphoric of the lot, with an extraordinarily bombastic and dense wall of noise giving way to an elegant and tantalising coda.
The best ideas always bear repeating, but only in the hands of those who know what they’re doing and do it with passion. SUNKEN deserve to hurtle straight to the top of the atmospheric black metal pile because “Livslede” gets everything right and hurts ever so good.