Norway stands as the land that spawned black metal as we know it today, with the cold and bleak atmosphere being one of trademark sounds that Norwegian black metal bands have crafted. However, over the years many bands have deviated from the original sound that they have crafted, with Darkthrone going towards a more crusty sound while other notable members like Ihsahn going towards a more avant-garde direction. Formloff joins bands like Ihsahn‘s solo project on the avant-garde/experimental route, and Spyhorelandet is their second album, 6 years in the making since their debut full length album, Adjø Silo.
Unfortunately, Spyhorelandet opens weakly, with what sounds like a random jam session slowly breaking into the main body of opening track Det dritet som renner ut i Ua. The band takes their time in building up the climax and atmosphere of the song, but this instead leads to quite an anti-climax as the ensuing impact is weaker than expected, instead of a strong and aggressive section as one would expect. And when least expected, the band then assaults the listener with blast beats, and on first few listens this could really disorient the listener. The reason behind the progressive/avant-garde tag that is attached to the band’s music is immediately obvious right from the start, with the songs that are written that do not adhere to any conventional style or structure, and this certainly takes a couple of listens to get used to before discovering the genius that is behind the music.
The atmosphere that the band invokes on the album is often depressive, often pushing the limits of sanity of the listener, with the seemingly random, inhuman shrieks that are littered throughout songs like Det dritet som renner ut i Ua sending chills down one’s spine and almost feels as though one were forcibly thrown into an asylum. The random bouts of aggression certainly doesn’t help making the listening of this album any easier, with songs like Harde ord på kammerset containing some perfect examples for this, though it is the unpredictability that keeps the listener in constant suspense, wondering and bracing for what comes next. The melodic lead guitar line on title track Spyhorelandet further gives the track a quirky effect, with chaotic riffs at the background providing a stark contrast. The clever usage of various instruments are also vital to the sound of Formloff, as evident from the organs on littered throughout the album their ominous presence, and the usage of saxophones on Drokkne i ei flo ta åske that helps in providing an uncanny resemblance to such avant-garde bands as Ihsahn and Japan’s Sigh.
That said though, there is a whole variety of discoveries to be made with each listen of the album, so Spyhorelandet is definitely one album that requires a lot of patience on the part of the listener. While first listens have been pretty disappointing, with subsequent listens the experience gets more enjoyable, making for Spyhorelandet a charming masterpiece.