One of my new favorite words is homogenization. Mr. Google Man defines it as "The process of making things uniform or similar," and I think it's germane (perhaps my all-time favorite word) to the discussion of metal in 2018. As our friends in Karpathian Relict pointed out in an interview I did with them several months back, the amount of homogenization, or bands sounding far too similar to one-another, is a legitimate concern these days. KR distinguished themselves by not only the incredible skill of their craft, but with metal compositions that were wholly unique. If you have yet to hear their album 'Beyond The Over', you should consider making that a priority. One band that has 0 likelihood of sounding like every other metal band in your library is Norway's Avertia. Your humble man-in-the-pit correspondent was recently contacted by Kristoffer Georg Nøstdal, guitarist and vocalist for Avertia, who asked if I'd have a listen to his band's new release, 'Hundre og Helvete' ( A Hundred and Hell), available for purchase on Spotify. With the understanding that I have about as much experience with black metal as I do crocheting toilet seat covers or avoiding a re-stocked vending machine, I was legitimately apprehensive when I pressed play for the first time. What I heard was not only a fantastic introduction to Norwegian Black Metal, but a study in metal amalgamation. 'Hundre og Helvete' is an organic album. Acoustic guitar strums often counter-balance electrified 70's hard rock and 80's metal licks to provide a wholly familiar, almost living soundscape for Nøstdal's blackened screams (which have been delivered in his native tongue). 'Trollmannen' (The Wizard) opens on a simple downtrodden chord progression before galloping drums provide the propulsion for a blackened folk metal ride through country Blind Guardian would certainly recognize. 'Den Rustne Porten' can trace its alternating rhythm and lead exchanges right back to Aerosmith's 'Toys in the Attic.' If those aren't strange bedfellows in a metal album then I'm both Joe Perry and Brad Whitford. The lead guitar rules the day most often here; not because it's played with blinding speed or surgical precision, but because it acts as a second, instantly recognizable voice in the band. The lead in 'Den Rustne Porten' played over the chorus is better than anything in rotation on your favorite rock radio station. The solos, used sparingly throughout, sound like Tony Iommi and Slash had a mean little baby in your garage and left it there to swap the rear end out of your old man's '64 Plymouth Fury. It is best employed at the end of the title track, and my favorite song on the record. After multiple verses and chorus' of driving power chords and screams, Nøstdal lays into an understated solo that contrasts its procedings; offering a proper lament for the darkness and creating depth for the track at the same time. But it's not just acoustic guitars and the crying of a Gibson SG (whether real or imagined on my part) that make 'Hundre og Helvete' feel like an organic album. Anders Linge Olsvik Breilid bass work and drumming in particular stand in stark contrast to the Superior Drummer programmed skins many other metal bands use these days. Accents and variations in both cymbal and snare strike feel purposeful; as if the drums are actively listening and responding to Nøstdal. In a word, the rhythm section on this album is authentic. Coupled with Nøstdal's competent and never flashy strumming, chugging and screaming, the resulting sound has a one-off, live quality to it. In a world of "perfect" studio recordings, 'Hundre og Helvete' is a welcome dose of realiy. In the end, I went outside of my musical comfort zone and ended up discovering something that sounded both new and familiar at the same time. If what you're looking for is a black metal experience that has plenty of driving, head snapping riffs, played through the sonic filter of both classic metal and R&R, Avertia has an album you need to be listening to. In the same way that Gojira was my introduction to death years ago, perhaps years from now Avertia will be the black metal band that I point to and say that they were my gateway to Norway's greatest export. If every black album sounds this good, I'm in. Rage on! JPR
Video for 'Hundre og Helvete'