One of Sweden’s several stellar Heavy Metal exports are Progressive Methall/Djent maestros Vildhjarta. With innumerable accolades and cult followings to their name the band needs no introduction given their recent contributions to modern Progressive Metal in the form of their ground-breaking full length debut “Måsstaden”. The “Thousands of Evils” EP, which has been in the making for the past year has finally seen the light of the day and needless to say it is some of the best material produced this year. Here’s why: One of the several features that seem to have been newly inducted into Vildhjarta’s body of work is their decision to write album titles in their mother tongue; beyond the initial difficulty, it grew on me fast. Besides, it was just plain fun to reply to questions like “What song are you listening to?” with “Dimman” and ”Regnar Bensin”.
“Thousands of Evils” opens with “Introduction:Staos”. With a fair amount of mystical atmospheric soundscapes to pave the path for what would be an obvious spinal assault. The track follows the typical Vildhjarta template of heavy down-tuned riffage, alternated with clean, reverberated guitar leads. I had the pleasure of being marveled by David Linkvist’s drum chops long before, but in my honest opinion he hadn’t garnered much of the spotlight given that there were three guitarists on board. Perhaps that’s one of the perks of being in a Progressive Metal band: The drive to outshine each other, vying to pique the critical listener’s interest creates enough room for excellent compositions. “Langstmedan”, the 2nd exhibits another new found quality, the employment of clean-spoken vocals. Not that the clean-spoken vocals were not there on “Måsstaden”, but the band seems to have effectively emphasized its contribution in the right places, to add a different flavour to Bladin and Adel’s dual vocal assault. And it is also serves as a holler to the good old days of “Omnislash”.
“Dimman” is something of a kind that has never been produced from Camp Vildhjarta before. A depressive acoustic melody, coupled with a few bars of piano music spells a refreshing change for most who find the constant pummeling of dissonant down-tuned riffs clichéd, although there’s plenty of that to round off the track. “En mörk vit lögn” brings to mind old favourites like “When The Skies Drop Dead”. However most would notice the remarkable shift in dynamics where they have replaced unrelenting aggression with carefully crafted technical songwriting.
From a production quality aspect, the EP has a more gritty sound than its predecessor. Although I believe it was somewhat intentional keeping in mind the dark ambiance the band is so good at capturing. While a few peers kept complaining about how the tracklist missed the flow or cohesion, I chose to give the band the benefit of doubt; if “Thousands of Evils” is indeed what the band achieved with a handful of discarded ideas then it is quite the gem of a release. And not in spite of a few minor frowns here and there I’m not going to be the pompous douche that calls it “A flawed gem”. “Thousands of Evils” is as good as an EP gets and is the next reasonable step that a band of Vildhjarta’s weight class should take. It also captures on a canvas their gradual maturity for addressing several issues that were highlighted by fans and pundits alike when the cacophony that followed the “Måsstaden” release, died down. Exhibit A: Inclusion of a track like “Intermezzo” and all the elements it is composed of.
“Thousands of Evils” can be looked upon as a demonstration of the gradient in the band and its comprising member’s respective chops. “Omnislash” was a shot in the dark at something dark and twisted but had the same verse-chorus-bridge structuring as most bands follow. “Måsstaden”, for the lack of a better verb, rectified this in the sense that the structuring became more fluid. There were oodles of guitar layers crawling out of the woodwork which was all good and fun till it went on a collision course with the vocals, resulting in certain peaks which were somewhat ruined because neither the vocals nor the guitar parts were intelligible. “Thousands of Evils” remarkably takes care of this minute flaw, which only fans like myself who have devoured the album spin after spin, hour after hour could point out. The EP grants more room for all the instruments to breathe, you can tell apart who plays what and when it kicks in. The guitars do their own kind of magic which forms as the efflorescent base for all the instruments; the fading in and out of the layers serves as a perfect cue for the piano samples to find their way into the spotlight. The darkest of passages are punctuated by vocalists Daniel Adel and Vilhelm Bladin’s dual assault.
Vildhjarta have been under a certain amount of “niched” scrutiny owing to the fact that half their audience had dubbed them as Meshuggah Lite and the other half were left picking “smithereen-ed” pieces off their jaw off the floor (Guess which crowd you or, for that matter, I belonged to?). The amalgamation of these two poles-apart inferences has led them to carve a segment in the Progressive Metal community that is uniquely their own. No one quite writes, dark, brooding, melancholic Progressive Metal like this band. You want melancholic bands; sure there are tons of them from the Goth/Doom camps that will keep you busy for months. But the ingredients that make a Vildhjarta composition uniquely Vildhjarta are something which cannot be re-hashed for someone else, even with the same instrument, let alone belonging to the same genre. The ship has probably sailed in the “beating around the bush” department, nevertheless, summing it up, Vildhjarta are set on the next chapter of their journey, the next gradual step. The same way they made “Måsstaden” different from “Omnislash” but still ridiculously good; “Thousands of Evils” serves the same to their oeuvre. It is quite possible that you may have already inferred that I lack the right words to describe this gem, but I’ll attempt to put it this way: “Thousands of Evils” rages and fumes and stomps through a good 20+minute long spiral road in five different directions. The only thing common between the record and its predecessor is the same foreboding in the guitar tones, the same unmerciful chugging riffs- but then again, it’s a “DIFFERENTLY DARK” fable.