Krahnholm – The Past Must Be Consigned to the Flames ALBUM REVIEW

You know I actually haven’t reviewed a true Black Metal album in almost a month now. The last album on my black metal list I reviewed was the Hypothermia album about 6 days ago, but I wouldn’t even consider that black metal, I only put it on the chart because it was labeled so by the band and the community. So I’m a bit rusty in this genre right now. Although maybe that ended up being a good thing, because I noticed things about The Past Must Be Consigned to the Flames that I would’ve never noticed before in any other album similar to it. And I can’t quite tell if that’s because this album is truly different, or that these are things typically found in other albums that I simply just didn’t have the capacity to realize before.

For one, the guitar tone sounds extremely warm for a black metal record. Typically black metal guitars have that cold and empty sound to them, but these sound fuzzy and comfortable. Which is one of the main selling points of this record, it is a very comfortable listen. Nothing in here is too challenging, the tones are like a warm blanket, and even the vocals have a soft harshness to them that match the fuzz of the guitars. One of the problems that comes with the “not challenging” part is that everything here is relatively predictable. The chord changes are standard, nothing sounds too atonal or “bad”, the chords that are supposed to change to one another do, and everything goes as planned.

However the way they do the predictable chord changes is full of intrigue. The very first use of this that came to my attention was the use of a Bbmaj7sus4 chord on the second track, Grim Forest. If that sounds like a ridiculously complex chord to you don’t worry, it isn’t, it’s just a Bb, E, and A. On it’s own it’s a pretty atonal chord, though the A mitigates the tritone (a tritone is, in the simplest terms possible, two notes, excluding 2nds [two notes that are right next to each other, like A and Ab] that when played together sound extremely dissonant, i.e C and F#). It doesn’t sound like much on the surface, but it very subtly enhances the harmony to something that doesn’t bore you, despite being otherwise a boring track. Krahnholm uses suspended chords throughout the album to this effect. There are various other moments like this on this album where you’re being harmonically pleased and you don’t even know it, kinda like if a bunch of mosquitoes gave you a really good handjob while you were asleep. You can’t really feel much, but there’s something slightly pleasurable going on and you don’t know what. On For Mist, the fourth track, there’s a minor 7th used towards the beginning. I know I’ve said a lot of things about how much I hate 7ths abuse, but minor 7ths are like the under-loved younger brother of 7th chords. Major 7ths get all the use and fame, while minor 7ths get left out for being just as nice. This same track also includes the transition of a major 7th to a 9th (also a less used, but still great, chord) that again, is a subtle way to enhance an otherwise boring harmony. This is actually a precursor to the high point of the album. Towards the end of the currently mentioned track, the melody is just alternating between a repeated C and a repeated E, while the other voice is alternating between a D minor chord and a G minor chord. The structure is incredibly simple, but what you get is the first part being alternating between a D minor 7th and a 9th, and the next part being an alternating of a G minor 11th and an 13th. The 13th is what really makes things awesome, because if the minor 7th is the child that’s under-loved, and the 9th is below that, and 11th is the pet cat that lives in the basement and nobody ever sees, than the 13th is the extremely well mannered flea on that cats back. Again, subtle but awesome harmony. Even going past particular chords, to the more general keys, there are barely noticeable great things about this record. Coldness of Hearts actually starts in a major key, which I normally hate. But Krahnholm manages to make it sound not cheesy by giving it contrast with minor chords. You keep giving it this contrast until suddenly you realize the song is actually in a minor key now. The transition is seamless. And if you can’t tell there has been a transition, generally the transition has done it’s job. Once again, it’s a small thing, but it improves everything. This is really what saves this record. It takes an otherwise very boring album and turns it into something nice to listen to.

But in the end, that’s all this album has. It’s nice to listen to, and has some good subtle things about it, but at it’s core, it’s generic, and even bad at some points. Just when I get done writing about great transitions, I have to conversely write about a very awful one. On Pale Hands, the track briefly “ends” about a third of the way through the album, and then goes into what seems like a completely different song. It is in fact the same song, and it shows it this way because it eventually goes right back into what the first third of the track was about (which I’ll admit, is another well done transition). It’s extremely strange and I can’t think of any reason why this was done. I would think that maybe someone in mixing forgot to add another track to the album and accidentally combined two of them in one, but again, it goes back to the motiff from the beginning, so that can’t be it. And that would be a strange thing from a technical issue to happen, because the production on this record is actually really solid. The drums are a bit soft, but it’s atmo black, that’s to be expected. There’s also a reason I haven’t mentioned the tracks Dark Bloody Rivers and I Will Walk With Wolves, and that’s because there isn’t anything to mention about them. They seem to just be there, doing nothing and saying nothing.

Which ultimately, is where this album would be without any of the tiny good things it does. The Past Must be Consigned to the Flames is sort of like a really bland salad with exquisite dressing. No dressing can fully hide the fact that you’re eating iceburg lettuce. Also no dressing can hide the fact that the track titles are absolutely awful. Dark Bloody Rivers? Grim Forest? Coldness of Hearts? Really? That’s awful even by black metal standards. All you need to do to fix this is put them in a foreign language. Just translate Dark Bloody Forest to Темный Лес Кровавый and bam, nobody in the first world knows any better. Such a simple fix, yet so few bands do it. Which is funny, because simple is the bands middle name. And also what eventually brings them down.


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