Swedish avant-garde quintet, Blodet, are post-everything. With new singer, Hilda Heller, making her recording debut and three new compositions to boot, they’re ready with their Cult of Luna and Refused endorsements to second-guess everyone’s ideal vision for what they should be. Sure, they could write an atmospheric doom record or post-rock offering and pitch their music to the underground as torchbearers of esoteric art. Instead, they opt for unsettling minimalist compositions grouped around traditional instruments and the power of voice. How can something so conventional be so experimental?
The crawling guitar passages of ‘The River’ set the mood within the first twenty seconds, and it’s a captivating atmosphere fixed on the intimate contralto chest of Hilda Heller’s dreamy narrative. You’ll think Jarboe of Swans or even Leonard Cohen in the way her vocals project with an eye-expanding mysticism to distract you from the literal meaning of her words. Her enunciation and elegance are perspicacious enough to need no lyric booklet, yet the cerebral elements pass over your head. Imagine you’re the lost protagonist in a 1990s goth music video following the sounds of the underground to a dark cavern bar where the resident band provide cover for an assassin to carry out their assignment beneath the noise of their instruments and the transfixed gaze of their audience. You’ll find no witnesses to the crime here, not when the rack toms increase the tension, and the two guitars build into a louder and heavier overdrive. The main triumph here is the avoidance of a nervous breakdown and the smart decision to end the song with the opening guitar arpeggios.
You can see why Cult of Luna are fans of Blodet on standout track, ‘She Remains’. This one is a nail-biter, like the persistent ambient drone in your head when you’re on the comedown from a heavy night of alcohol and distressed by the thought of facing a day of responsibilities in the office. Is somebody following you? You glance over your shoulder and feel your fingers twitch. This might be the best way to describe the eerie guitar tremolo as it moves through half-a-step on repeat and allows the clunky bass slaps to compete with the tribal drums for supremacy. Joy Division’s Closer is the obvious reference point, but Heller goes into full Siouxsie Sioux mode. This is your invitation to envisage her gyrating on stage like a cabaret seductress from an art-house vampire film.
How do Blodet band maintain such ambience and express such tension without succumbing to the unsentimental violence running through their bones? The answer on end track, ‘Vision,’ is by prolonging the intro to their fifteen-minute climax with five minutes of unnecessary wind-chime effects and spasmodic guitar notes played out of key. It’s the only misadventure on the EP but one they’re quick to rectify when the percussion and bass feel their way into the mix like predators trying to force their way into a fragile habitat of endangered creatures. “My bleeding vision scattered across the night sky/ Gazing down upon us through a thousand eyes/ My secret lover naked in the mirror/ What do you see? Tell me, what do you see?” asks Heller in her most enchanting voice. Though her vocal lines are one-dimensional in the opening stanzas and her lyrics ambiguous enough to feel like an improvised poetry reading, she steps out of her cocoon in style once the song gets going. Listen to her aching projection at 10:20 seconds and the way she holds her sustained notes. There’s no need for this track to be fifteen minutes in length, but the brief foray into post-metal rage at the twelve-minute mark does enough to retain your attention. And, if there’s one thing Blodet do well, it’s their ability to create tension.
It may be three songs in length, but thirty minutes of music is enough to satisfy the listening demand for an album. Blodet are masters of unease and foreboding and show that the minimalist approach is often the most powerful.
Release Date: 24/09/2021
Record Label: Church Road Records
Standout track: She Remains
Suggested Further Listening: The Creatures – Anima Animus (1999), Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky (2010), Scott Walker – Tilt (1995)