30 January 2020

Konvent – Puritan Masochism

Scandinavia has a habit of bringing out a crop of absolutely stellar metal bands, doesn’t it? If there’s one country that does seem to tend slightly in the shadow of the others, though, it’s (arguably) Denmark. Of course, you’ve got some killer Danish artists like Mercyful Fate, Artillery, Volbeat and Lars Ulrich. And with that said, if Konvent keep up the good work, they’ll be mentioned in the same breath as those legends of the scene. As their label have suggested, could Copenhagen become the new death doom capital? Quite possibly! Konvent were signed to Napalm Records with only a demo to their name, which in itself speaks volumes. Does the album live up to this? In short, yes. Absolutely.

My first impression on the record was just how crushingly heavy it is. Produced expertly, the guitar tone is crisp and sludgy throughout, with restrained yet effective drums that always serve the song. The vocal performance is incredibly guttural, low and brutal. This is no mean feat; Konvent are not only female-fronted, but the band actually consists of four women. Rikke’s vocals are a lot heavier than a lot of her male counterparts in the scene are capable of employing. We seem to be seeing a lot of modern metal bands, including Venom Prison, Svalbard and Insurgent here in the UK, fronted by women, which reject the ‘female-fronted’ label, an outdated marketing gimmick. This, in my view, is rightly so – and Konvent are setting a new standard for heavy, with men in the scene having some catching up to do!

Album opener ‘Puritan Masochism’ sets the scene for much of the record, with gloomy guitar riffs and brutal vocals. ‘Trust’ allows the grinding bass to the front of the mix towards the beginning, and ‘World of Gone’ demonstrates a wider palette to Sara’s guitar work, with a chilling intro. It is one of the best songs on the former part of the album, feeling like a true epic, as Rikke shows off her higher, more blackened-style vocal range. ‘Tick tock, poison clock’, she growls menacingly, but memorably, over subtle key changes and a tight rhythm section. The tempo fluctuations throughout the record are well controlled, and stop the record from sounding tired. There’s an incredible part of ‘Bridge’ where the music slowly accelerates and increases in intensity, evoking feelings of real despair and ruination. Of course, if death doom is your thing, you’ll feel elated by this! ‘Bridge’ diminuendos with startling effect, slowing down to a halt before Sara closes the song with some spooky, atmospheric volume swells on her guitar.

The second half of the album is even better. After a minute or so of dense, sludgy riffing, ‘Waste’ changes into a spine-tingling, Candlemass-inspired section. With a riff that could be on Nightfall, a tortured guest performance from Tue Krebs Roikjer complements Rikke perfectly. The disparate twin vocals are incredibly effective on this song. ‘Idle Hands’ is one of my favourites on Puritan Masochism. It’s spellbindingly black and bleak, with an evil, but simple main guitar riff and devastating key changes that again evoke Candlemass, but to a heavier, downright scarier effect. The melodies are cleverly written, and are a great lesson in how to vary a single riff idea and carry it for a whole song. A two-parter titled ‘Ropes’ concludes the album, with a terrifying, black metal-inspired guitar intro. It slowly builds up a single idea, creating an incredible atmosphere. The second part is more of an epic slow burner, the ideal way to end Puritan Masochism, building in intensity. An appropriate soundtrack to the eventual end of days, there’s different sections, pieced together effectively, converging like the last piece of the jigsaw. The final couple of minutes of the album are a fitting epilogue, as the music fades with cold, distant guitar wails, as if the last seconds of life were dying away.

I can’t praise this album enough. Konvent keep it simple – or seem to – but any flashiness, frills or nonsense would dilute their message. They keep it interesting and varied with their subtle changes in key, tempo and time that easily go beneath the radar on a casual listen. The atmosphere is frightening and bleak, the instrumentation serves the purpose more than the player, and the vocals are a real highlight with their range, brutality and intensity. Curiously, the record actually seems to get better as it runs. It’s a real treat to see a ‘revival’ genre like death doom with the slickness of modern production. If you like death metal, black metal, sludge, doom, or anything extreme and dark, you’re already missing out by not hearing this! If you’ve already listened to it, listen to it again! A modern classic. Get it on your playlists.

Check out: World of Gone, Idle Hands

Puritan Masochism is out on Napalm Records now and can be purchased here

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