Utbyrd – Varskrik (Album Review)

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A mighty symphonic storm descends from the north.

Orthodoxy seems to be the inescapable result of success, as even the most rebellious of art forms will eventually amass a growing number of imitators as infamy gives way to notoriety. Even the most dissonant and raw forms of metallic aggression that were born out of either a total disregard or an open hostility to commercial viability can’t seem to escape appealing to a growing audience, as the music that has evolved out of the early second wave of black metal in Europe and particularly Scandinavia has showcased. As such, innovation and refinement has been vital to maintaining a semblance of the rebellious spirit that inspired the forerunners of the current scene, and the symphonic niche within the blackened style has proven among the more adaptive to this eventuality. Most roads lead to the likes of Emperor and Dimmu Borgir wherein modern day adherents are concerned, though many often find themselves being a far cry from where those bands began and even where the former ended in a studio capacity.

Wherein the obscure Norwegian outfit Utbyrd is concerned, being set apart from the pack of bombastic heirs to the orchestral pomp and circumstance of the blackened sort arises largely through an embracing of contemporary practices that deviate heavily from the original formula. Being natives of the town of Bodø, which is situated just within the threshold of the Arctic Circle, their craft is of a frosty and chaotic sort that showcases a sense of affinity with the early guard of the second wave, but is also of a higher production grade that lines up more so with the recent works of Ihsahn’s solo project. There is also a more through-composed and progressive character to their songwriting that dovetails with recent offerings by Borknagar and Enslaved, not to mention a penchant for the sort of clean voice chanting and smooth melodic bursts often hard out of more atmospheric bands that have been all the rage for the past decade, to speak nothing for the melodramatic and borderline theatrical character of front man Nohr’s darkened ravings, which almost seem to channel Dani Filth at times.

Although very much an appropriate entry in this current trend of expansive albums that aren’t easy to fully categorize, this outfit’s debut LP “Varskrik” was originally released in digital form back in 2017 to a humble reception. However, the label Petrichor saw fit to give this highly unique diamond in the rough a second go at things with a full on physical release in both the CD and vinyl mediums, a truly noble undertaking given the level of quality musicianship on display here. In addition to the five principle members of the fold breathing a heavy degree of ingenuity into the songwriting and execution of this album, the one and only Clemens Wijers of Carach Angren fame has lent his talents as a keyboardist and arranger to turn a highly original black metal template into a raging symphonic beast. The sonic results of this merger of Nordic frost and Dutch theatricality is a finely tuned blizzard of melodic grandeur and biting intensity that bridges the divide between the murkiness of the second wave with the more contemplative and nuanced character of the third.

If there is any flaw in how this album manifests, it is that the band opted to frontload the apex point of their opus right at its inception. The gargantuan 12 minute opener “Karsten Og Draugen” stands as one of the more brilliant examples of merging the highly kinetic and varied character of a mid-90s Emperor or Limbonic Art anthem with the expansive, riff-happy development character of something Akerc**ke or Anaal Nathrakh might dream up. On its own, this song stands as one of the most towering accomplishments to come out of this style in the past decade, though it also serves to steal some of the thunder from the songs that follow. That being said, the stormy blasts and frozen gusts of “Dauing” and the busy riffing frenzies at insane speeds of “Deildegasten” will send shivers of euphoria down the spine of any trustee of the symphonic black lifestyle, and the adventurous epic closer “Skogen” makes a valiant effort at attempting to match the grandiose scope and elaborate theatrical character of the opening anthem and often finds itself channeling the diabolical character of mid-2000s Dimmu Borgir in the process.

Not for the faint of heart, nor for the rigid traditionalist who thinks that black metal should stick to its rustic, stripped down and low-fi roots, “Varskrik” is the sort of album that knows its audience and yet also challenges it to venture beyond the impressive yet largely stylized character of “Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk” and “Enthrone Darkness Triumphant.” At times it finds itself bordering on being a technical venture, as the interplay of the riff work and the frequently shifting tempo of each individual song proves far more complex than what is often trotted out by the current scene, including by Wijers’ own principle project Carach Angren. It proves to be something of a grower as its unconventional approach to song structure, even by extreme metal standards, will see most rank and file fans of symphonic black metal scratching their heads at time, but the sheer intensity level on display is sure to rope in most stragglers and give them the needed incentive to commit to repeated listens. A fine addition to the black metal world that was, admittedly, a few years before its time.

Released by: Petrichor
Released Date: March 12th, 2021
Genre: Symphonic Black Metal


  • Gast / Bass
  • Tykje / Drums
  • Skarv / Guitars
  • Gjenganger / Guitars
  • Nohr / Vocals

“Varskrik” track listing:

  1. Karsten og Draugen
  2. Dauing
  3. Sjøormen
  4. Deildegasten
  5. Skogen
  6. Utbyrd
  7. Blikkstille vann
8.5 Great

In the grand tradition of Emperor and with an eye to the theatrical and innovative character of the present symphonic blackened landscape, a storm that first ravaged the permafrost of the north in 2017 has returned in physical form to ravage the masses once more.

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 8

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