Written by Kep
Orm – Intet • Altet
> Melodic black metal
> Releasing September 30
I’m a sucker for a good concept album (operative word “good”, of course). I also love an extra-long record that pushes well beyond an hour; I’m pretty sure that’s the root of my longstanding funeral doom obsession. So it goes without saying, then, that my interest was piqued when I first glanced over the promo for Orm’s upcoming record Intet • Altet. The details that grabbed my attention? 92 minutes. Four tracks. Conceptually centered around life stages. I hadn’t even heard the music and I was pretty well committed to reviewing this one on principle.
The Danish black metal trio has never been shy about writing challenging, epic compositions: their first two albums, Orm and Ir, feature the same sort of sweeping narrative songcraft that can be found here, with the latter being a grand 47-minutes over just two tracks. Intet • Altet (“nothing • everything”), however, is on a whole new plane. The songwriting is stronger—there’s less of the alternating loud-soft-loud-soft approach that made Ir a touch predictable, and a larger number of subtle shifts in rhythmic approach and riff structure are deftly applied to keep repeated passages fresh. The band seems to have poured themselves personally into the music, too; there’s something terrifyingly gripping about the visceral performances, something touchingly genuine about the wistful melodies, and something animalistic and gutwrenching about the inhuman auditory violence.
That’s likely because the album’s concept of life stages is one that’s easy to relate to, and it seems to draw directly from the members’ real lives. It makes for songs that feel authentic and unmanufactured. There’s none of that performative “look at how evil we are!” or “behold our Satanic rituals” here in Orm’s music; the band are merely human storytellers, relating human concepts via impeccably produced black metal.
Each of the four tracks represents a different part of the human experience, moving chronologically from beginning to inevitable end. The riffwork from dual frontmen Simon Sonne Andersen and Theis Wilmer Poulsen is catered to that broad approach; the songs are wide-ranging and full of narrative turns, never sticking to one idea for too long, moving from fleshripping dual tremolos to melancholy arpeggios to burdened chugs to expressive pseudo-melodies. The vocals are perhaps the weakest musical aspect, as they don’t have nearly the range of expression to match the rest of the band, but they’re arresting and powerful. The drumming of Adam Bjørn Schønemann-Warming, on the other hand, is the record’s highlight. His work isn’t simply intricate and tight; it’s the drums that are the hero of Orm‘s lengthy tracks, shifting rhythmic emphases with ease to keep riffs alive, and playing the pensive brooding heartbeat in calmer sections with equal finesse.
The concept is highly successful in execution, too. The first two tracks of Intet • Altet—“Fra Dyden” (“from virtue”), representing youth, and “Floden, Som Kan Skabe” (“the river, which can create”), representing adulthood—have much in common, but also much that distinguishes them from one another. The warm acoustic opening of “Fra Dyden” feels like seeing the sunlight after a chill night, like entering the world anew. When the force of the band arrives it’s full of piss and vinegar, a roiling aggression that’s direct and unabashed. Even during the track’s lulls are characterized by a transparency of emotion; gallops, moments of rest, blasts, speedy chugs—all of them feel open and full of wide-eyed genuineness. “Floden, Som Kan Skabe”, by way of contrast, does retain some of that bravado, but there’s a dark undercurrent of turmoil beneath, and the melodic work is more melancholy. Those rising and falling lines feel burdened, and moments of calm are filled with emotional exhaustion, as though each lengthy outburst of fury is merely a front that requires great effort to keep up. The track’s high point riff, which lands about 2/3 through, is a massive emotional release, but even it is underpinned with a touch of sorrow.
Now you may be thinking that an hour and a half of black metal sounds like a grueling experience, and Orm seem to agree. “Trance/Floden, Som Kan Lede” (“the river, which can lead”) is the album’s musical and conceptual shift, a representation of austerity, of loneliness, but the intentional kind: loneliness that you desire and seek out when the world and its chaos of souls is too much. Gone is the fervor and fire of youth, and with it the begrudging resignation of adulthood. The music reflects this asceticism, eschewing the driving percussion and tremolos and urgency altogether for something calming and profound. Meditation and contemplation are the prevailing feelings here, as the guitars meander intentionally through harmonies and esoteric melody, the texture spare and subdued. There’s still direction—a slow build brings us to a grandiose (yet still reserved) final stretch—but the effect is one of philosophical wandering, and it’s an excellent counterpoint to the album’s other three tracks.
The denouement is “Mod Døden” (“against death”), a piece that has a mountain’s worth of range in its peaks and valleys. Touching on the emotional and musical direction of all three preceding tracks, it brings them to a sweeping, violent fruition of cascading riffs and unbridled aggression. The highs feel higher—they’re also as close to straight up vicious black metal as the record gets, with screaming tremolo lines that wend and writhe—and the lows feel even deeper and more meditative in contrast. This is not going gentle into that good night, musically speaking; there are passages of reflection and consideration, but on the whole it’s a work of tumult and eventual triumph. The final stretch is as fulfilling as you’d hope, a flood of sound with long tremolos duetting a deluge of arpeggios and a glorious driving rhythm section, eventually dissipating into silence as transition to the next plane is achieved.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Intet • Altet is an accomplishment of singular brilliance, a true one-of-a-kind album that impresses with both its concept and execution. Its extensive 92-minute runtime asks much of the listener, but Orm’s remarkable songwriting and strong performances deliver more than enough to make it worth the time. Two thumbs way up.