Trying to define Norwegian hardcore in 2018 is becoming frustratingly futile, with bands seemingly unable, or pigheadedly unwilling, to put all their ideas in one battered suitcase and hit the studio. The free-for-all pillaging of black metal, pop, jazz, folk, stoner rock, blues, AOR and now, in the case of Ondt Blod, traditional Sami music, has created a lawless wild west of creativity where almost anything goes and, surprisingly, almost everything works. It’s a fascinating scene that simply refuses to be pigeonholed, with the peerless, brilliant Fysisk Format reigning over all, watching as its loyal jackals tear apart the wheezing carcass of genre, and the label’s latest release, Natur by Ondt Blod, does absolutely not a single thing to challenge this supremacy.
Less brazenly hardcore than the band’s 2016 debut, Finnmark, but still firmly rooted in the bloody, clumped sawdust of the genre, Natur takes a somewhat Frankensteinian approach to its craft, bolting bits of inspiration together like the sections of a burger rather than combining them like soup. The influence of tourmates Kvelertak and producer Yngve Andersen’s own band, Blood Command, loom large, with the riffs and blackened yells of the former dragging the crustier end down, and the pop nous of the latter pushing the melodic end up, creating a two-headed beast that will vomit rainbows into your most ferocious nightmares. A great example of this is the brilliant Start Han Opp (Start It Up), whose grunting sludge intro surreptitiously side steps key without any hint of an apology, before exploding seamlessly into a chorus that is pure golden-era Kiss. It’s a trick the band use on more than one occasion, including the furious Med Ulver (With Wolves), featuring an un-credited appearance from Blood Command singer Karina Ljone (or a damn good impression of her at the very least), and every time it is an utter delight. Sung entirely in Norwegian, but with enough passion to make that immaterial, the Sami influence is primarily limited to the lyrical content and a duet with Ella Marie Hætta Isaksen (ISÁK), who performs a traditional ancient singing tradition known as a joik alongside some gloriously spiteful, spat punk vocals, but the spirit of indigenous pollination streaks through Natur like the marbling in a fine steak, and it’s hard to imagine an album like this coming from anywhere other than Norway.
Natur is out now via Fysisk Format