Kvaen – The Great Below (Review)

Kvaen - The Great BelowThis is the second album from Swedish black metal solo act Kvaen.

I really enjoyed 2020’s The Funeral Pyre, but never had a chance to give it a proper review, so I jumped on The Great Below as soon as it appeared. As I suspected, this is not one to miss.

This is a 39-minute rip-roaring black metal album spliced with thrash and speed metal, and bolstered with elements of pagan/Viking metal. Overall The Great Below is more of a pure black metal album than its predecessor though, despite still having the aforementioned additional influences.

These new songs are full of blistering aggression and blackened bite. However, powered by melodic might and the sort of well-written catchiness that many bands would kill for, this isn’t your average black metal release, simply because the level of execution and songcraft is so high.

Everything about this record is above average. The riffs are killer and the rhythms are well-considered. The solos and leads are spellbinding. The drumming is powerful and satisfying. The recording is clear and strong, and the vocals infectious. A slew of high profile guests appear too, (Arch Enemy, King Diamond, Finntroll, Necrophobic, and Witchery), adding their own texture in both music and vocals.

As mentioned above, the songwriting is of a very high standard. There’s more variety this time around too, with greater use of atmospheric sections and slow-building mood. The keyboard sounds really take me back to the 90s second wave.

This is a passionately-delivered slice of exceptional black metal. The debut was great, but this is even better, as it takes what was so good about The Funeral Pyre, refines its quintessential components and then broadens its horizons. Top work.

Essential listening.

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