The new full-length album from Svarttjern is an intentional attack on your senses. From thrash to riff and back again, Shame Is Just A Word has a reach beyond black metal.
The band first coalesced in 2003 then went through a sound-finding evolution that ultimately lead to their first album, Misanthropic Path of Madness, released in 2009. They have stayed on point ever since, putting new music out every two or three years, largely in the same habitat. Always reliably grisly and reliably loud, Svarttjern minds no master and puts down exactly what they want. Shame Is Just A Word is a tour through the band’s cosmography that shows you the corners and the center of their music.
The opening song, “Prince of Disgust,” is a pile driver, fast and heavy, and it sets the table for what comes next. The music and vocals are more decadent than gloomy, more indulgent than ritualistic. Songs like “Frost Embalmed Abyss” have a straight-forward metal structure – solid guitar riffs, linear set-up from one section to the next, growling yet decipherable vocals (mostly in English), and a short, whirly lead break late in the song instead of just past the halfway mark. Songs like “Ravage Me” are more syncopated, thrash-based tirades, a theme particularly revealed in the meticulous drumming. The set tilts back and forth between these poles. The closer is the title track and it functions as a kind of summary of the whole album, a clear declaration that Svarttjern means what it says and that this music is not for the faint of heart nor weak of spirit. There is a genuine guttural, basic human aggression in these songs. You can hear it as a throwback to the grand days of Norwegian Black Metal, or as an homage. In any case, whatever else you hear in it, the heavy hammer you are looking for is there.
It is a solid set, straddling several genre and sub-genre lines while consistently delivering a weighty sound. As such, there is a broad appeal here to fans of metal music in general, not just Black Metal specialists. Svarttjern does not have any US tour dates listed on their social media right now, and only a couple European ones, so if you want to hear them, Shame Is Just A Word is your best bet. Recommended.