Black metal with depressive overtones is another of those genres that, when offered with sincerity and inspiration, is capable of touching me most emotionally; the latest to do so is Danish musician J. Skoggangr (or Skovgænger, as he signs his name for the occasion) with the debut full length of his Tugt. After a demo released in 2013, the project has been dormant until now, with Skovgænger disengaging with several other bands in recent years (Ildskær, Í Myrkri, Genfærd) before taking advantage of the time gaps granted by the pandemic to take over Tugt, with the help of Saxtorph (bass) and Ahnstrøm (drums), and finalise a long compositional work that finally resulted in the release of the magnificent Ved lysets ophør. Their approach is less atmospheric than that of the leader of Danish (and not only) dsbm, Ynleborgaz and his Make a Change… Kill Yourself, but the greater harshness does not alleviate but rather exacerbates the sense of impotence, of disillusionment that exudes from every note of the album; during its hour-long duration the work grows in intensity until it reaches peaks where the psychic pain becomes paroxysmal, taking on an almost physical consistency. Ved lysets ophør has nothing artificial or constructed about it, here the musician’s feelings are poured onto the staff without mediation and the scream is often overpowered by heartbreaking screams, while a rhythmic base works incessantly, taking breath only when melodic gashes are opened by the guitar. Personally, I find that the fulcrum of the work is the long central track Mareridt (in Danish, nightmare) in which the obsessive pace is mitigated by a softer introductory phase and slowdowns preparatory to the explosive overflow of existential pain. The closing is entrusted to the melancholic notes of the shorter and painful Efterspil, a worthy epilogue to an album of rare intensity as it’s especially in the chords of Scandinavian musicians in this particular stylistic segment.
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