Blodet – Death Mother


‘Blodet are masters of unease and foreboding and show that the minimalist approach is often the most powerful,’ remarked Scream Blast Repeat when reviewing 2021’s excellent Vision EP. Since then, they’ve played the prestigious ArcTangent Festival and created a buzz around their name thanks to the support of Church Road Records and the endorsement of Cult of Luna. But the last twelve months have been tough on the band. Guitarist, Rickie Östlund, lost his battle with cancer last year, reducing the group from a sextet to a quintet. It’s inevitable that Death Mother takes on a new meaning for the band members. Things that might have been disguised in metaphor now resonate with personal grief.

At the centre of this music is vocalist, Hilda Heller, who conjures images of a woman gyrating with fierce eyes and sophisticated hand movements that choreograph like rituals devoted to the cause of mother earth. You’ll find it easy to imagine a doom metal interpretation of Siouxsie and The Banshees on the opening title-track, where guitars vibrate in high treble frequencies and slash through their amps in minimal distortion. This band started as an instrumental post-rock outfit before recruiting Heller, and you can hear the atmospheric conveyance of each instrument leaving an imprint of its ethereal presence behind like a plume of invisible smoke. Here, the guitar riff serves as the link between the spellbinding contralto verses and seems reluctant to impose itself as the main pulse of the song. But that’s the point of this minimalist rock approach – simple arpeggios explore the gaps between the bass and drums. Power chords crank through the mix like clouds rather than concrete structures. Heller’s voice projects an awe that could be mistaken for loneliness in its tender moments.

The appointed time we cannot control is the subject of ‘The Hour’, which one assumes is a rumination about death. This song starts with a menacing thump of bass and staccato guitars for Heller to gather her thoughts and lament that, “The hour is coming, the hour is near.” You think her subtle switch to a higher octave is the chorus, but this serves as the invitation for the guitars and drums to come crashing in with a thunderous reverb. When the dynamics find calm again, they do so with the opening staccato movements transformed into a continuous rhythm. It all feels so organic and natural, like a ritual dictated by the spontaneity of the body rather than the cerebral calculations of the mind. The slow breakbeat and soft chord strokes of ‘Lead Me Home’ are just as enchanting. Chelsea Wolfe is a common reference point for this band, but they sound more like a post-rock version of Goldfrapp here. Or look at it like this – what would The Caridgans create if they embraced the downbeat side of Emma Ruth Rundle’s music and flirted with the doom rock stylings of Messa

You could stand in the crowd and enjoy being alone at a Blodet concert, oblivious to those around you. That’s the impact this music can have on you. Hypnotic is a strong word, but perhaps charismatic might be more accurate. The fifteen minutes of ‘Without/Within’ pass by like a light drizzle of rain capable of producing a rainbow. Slow and brooding bass strokes merge with incorporeal guitar intervals to allow Heller’s voice the space it needs to make sense of its introspection. Only at 03:09 do we hear a regular drum beat and neo-doom metal chords. Then the vocal harmonies come to life like venerations to a deity whose mission is to return us to the soil for the rebirth of other lifeforms. It’s the one indisputable epiphany on the record, and it’s a glorious one wrapped in the effulgence of a soprano croon. The change of direction at the nine-minute mark allows the vocals to pierce through the lonely ambience before they reach for a climax of loud guitars and crashing cymbals. At no point do you dare to glance at your watch.

Blodet might sound like aspiring stars of the Roadburn Festival, but that’s because their art radiates with candour and mystery – two things that seldom compliment each other. Their decision to end the record with an instrumental remembrance of their former guitarist (see ’93-22’) is a wise one, even if it sounds like a Christian Death interpretation of The Shadows. The drums are more agitated, and the bass feels more aggressive, yet you can let your mind daydream about the imponderable finality of life during the three minutes and fifty seconds, just as you would at a funeral.

They’re not the first to explore the heavier side of post-rock, but few of Blodet’s contemporaries can be so introspective yet so in tune with the listener. This is a fine record with a commanding presence.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 29/09/2023

Record Label: Church Road Records

Standout tracks: The Hour, Lead Me Home

Suggested Further Listening: Messa – Close (2022), Siouxsie and The Banshees – Tinderbox (1986), Shaam Larein – Sticka En Kniv I Världen (2022)