Seven-piece Swedish extreme/progressive metal act Vildhjarta followed no agenda over the last four years, thriving instead on local fandom and flourishing (like most often do) under the obsolescence of definitive genre boundaries (even if Posehn’s satirical stance about sweaty guys in a recording booth holds true). Signing to Century Media Records gave this band the push to produce what is now a harsh, fantastic concept work.
MÃ¥sstaden is thematic, and while the tale of a tucked-away mythical city is likely lost in translation and abrupt, yet purposeful, piercing guitars (“Shadow”, “Dagger”), lead single “BenblÃ¥st” feels like an atom bomb of unrelenting, djent force. This is to say nothing of a most disturbing Richard Kelly-esque music video that makes Slipknot’s “Psychosocial” look like a summer retreat to Camp Jellyjam. Though all of it might not register as intended in countries that are not Sweden, there are definitely genuine feelings of terror lurking within.
Quiet-loud companion pieces “Ãstpeppar” and “Traces” donate chugging riffs and vocals that volley between wails and hymnal devotion. In similar fashion to works by more romanticized metal act Opeth, a sense of technical prowess Tobin Abasi could be proud of does not overshadow psychology. The jump scare that is “Phobon Nika” bleeds straight into a 47-second instrumental entitled “MÃ¥sstadens NationalsÃ¥ng” (presumably said fictional city’s national anthem), which introduces “When No One Walks With You”, by far the most mainstream-functioning, extreme metal tune on the entirety of MÃ¥sstaden, though not a single itself.
Soon after, “Nojja” packs in its screeching crescendos thus far unmatched at under two minutes, eventually reaching the lengthy closure of “The Lone Deranger”, a sadly take-it-or-leave-it moment. Across the board, MÃ¥sstaden is easily one of the best metal releases of 2011; it’s not as draped in nostalgia as the latest memorial compilation by Anal Cunt, it’s harsher than prog metallurgists tend to go, and yet it’s somehow accessible.
Being oblivious to the message does not hinder a single fiery minute of MÃ¥sstaden; like other foreign metal acts, the music transcends the message and becomes its own chilling, rocking entity. Hell, we all know most Rammstein songs sound lyrically neutered in English, but that’s not why we play the albums. We play the albums because they’re heavy and fun. Vildhjarta has produced solid work here, with hopefully more to come soon.
Essential Tracks: “Ãstpeppar”/”Traces”, “Nojja”, and “MÃ¥sstadens NationalsÃ¥ng”/”When No One Walks With You”.