Svartsyn- The True Legend

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Saturday, July 6, 2013

Svartsyn’s Wrath Upon the Earth was an album I liked quite a bit, and was my first exposure to the Swedish one-man black metal project. Less than a year later the group released The True Legend, which established fans might recognize as the debut they released in 1998 when they still had a full lineup. But this isn’t a mere reissue as Ornias has re-recorded the vocals and guitar work on these tracks and arranged them in a different order than before, even cutting one out entirely. It works out a bit better than one might initially expect, and is one of the few instances where a re-recording of a black metal album has worked out for the better.

While I haven’t heard the original The True Legend in its entirety, thanks to the magic of YouTube I was able to go back and listen to a few of the tracks. Even for the time that it was released, the production values were pretty iffy and compressed everything to the point that it was hard to make out the nuances of the material. So it’s definitely not a bad thing that Ornias has re-recorded these tracks, and what is immediately noticeable is the prominence of the guitar work. The True Legend now has a sound that feels more like your standard 2000s black metal release, as the guitar leads and drum beats are prominent, the vocals tower over the instrumentation, and the bass remains relegated to the background. It has definitely worked in the album’s favor, as the songs are easier to distinguish from one another and there’s a lot more space between the instruments than before. As for the actual songs, they offer a mix of the type of early Swedish/Norwegian black metal sound from the early to mid-90s that has dissonant blasting and slower heavy metal/thrash influenced sections. Svartsyn goes for a straightforward approach for much of the album, though there are some surprise bursts of synth on “Snake In the Garden of Eden” and “Shadows Painting My Eyes” that add a symphonic twist. A few of the faster moments did have a tendency to blur together and be a bit difficult to tell apart, but the quality of the riffs overall (particularly the one-two punch of “Tearing Your Soul” into the title track) makes this effort one that I returned to often.

The vocals on The True Legend were buried under the instrumentals and felt as though they were far off in the distance, but this re-recording puts the style closer to Svartsyn’s more recent material. What this means is that Ornias is front and center and stands above the instrumentation. His vocals consist of harsher screams that have a good deal of echoing and a slightly lower pitch that isn’t quite at a growl. It doesn’t vary that often in pitch when compared to some of the others out there, but the performance was able to maintain the type of blistering intensity that I like in this genre. Opinions will probably be divided as to whether making the vocals more prominent was a good thing or not, but regardless of how you feel Ornias remains a very capable front man.

The True Legend does have some weaker moments where the riffs blur together, but it always recovers quickly and some of the strongest arrangements outshine some of Svartsyn’s other albums. Re-recordings don’t have the greatest track record (Under the Sign of Hell 2011 being one of the worst offenders in recent memory), but this appears to be a case where the new elements actually improve the original work and breathe some additional life into it. If you’re a fan of what this group has put out before or are just looking for another black metal release that captures the older Scandinavian sound quite well, this should hold your attention for quite some time.

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