?By Craig Haze
Spyhorelandet is the sophomore release from avant-garde black metal Norwegian duo Formloff. Like fellow intrepid journeymen Arcturus, Ihsahn and Solefald, Formloff’s sense of experimentalism tips its hat to the lineage from whence it was born via a seething pitch-black baseline, but deviates into aberrant realms, vividly bespattering eccentricity along the way.
Norway is, of course, hearth and home to black metal, and the gelid tenor many of the nation’s bands so admirably purvey is ingrained throughout metal. That same hypothermic bleakness encapsulates Formloff’s aesthetic. Spyhorelandet comprises the kind of unrelenting hopelessness you’ll experience stumbling naked and bleeding though a blizzard after seeing your family devoured by wolves. However, where much of black metal concentrates on diabolic or fantastical pursuits, Formloff are interested in the “ugly personal histories each of us carries”. Indeed, Formloff manage to conjure those personal horrors we hide even from ourselves rather well.
Like all of us, Spyhorelandet is a rambling, often incongruent mess—and that’s no criticism. The album harnesses that same paradoxical heart we all share, which is to be hugely admired. The unhinged atmosphere maintained throughout is glorious (random monstrous shrieks, hell, why not, we all feel like that sometimes!). Take a track like “Drokkne i ei flo ta åske”, where you’ll find croaking Gollum-worthy vocals, off-kilter saxophone, and a melodious, stirring lead colliding with pitiless droning riffs. It’s all chaos, insanity and dissonant clashes, and I don’t know about you, but that perfectly sums up my internal monologue.
The band’s blend of the hostile and the dismally reflective makes for uneasy listening. The jarringly unconventional “Faen!”, “Spyhorelandet” and “Den gamle jorda” are strewn with screeds of bitter riffs and callous vocals—never allowing the tracks to settle into a predictable or formulaic pattern. That capriciousness is Spyhorelandet‘s finest aspect. It’s a brilliant stratagem to utilize disorder as a foundation because, after all, Formloff want to exhibit the inner turmoil of life itself. Formloff evoke the discomforting precariousness of life very well and, just like life itself, if you stick around and take a chance—which is something you’ll need to do as this is definitely not an ‘immediate’ album—you’ll find it a rewarding journey.
You never really know what’s going to arrive next on Spyhorelandet, be it saxophone, organ, twisted harmonious lead, warping electronic effect or demented vocal line. And although it may at first seem like the band indiscriminately litter their tunes with abrasiveness, it soon becomes apparent that Spyhorelandet does exactly what the band envisaged. It offers an unsettling glimpse into the human psyche and burrows deep beneath the skin.
Spyhorelandet lingers in the mind. If you genuinely want to come to terms with your true self, Spyhorelandet will provide all the regressive therapy you’ll ever need—although, to be honest, I wouldn’t advocate it as a tool to improve your life, more as a means to get in touch with the crud affixed to your soul. Spyhorelandet is a wonderfully insane and expressive work of mutated black metal. Compositionally askew, it is an unpredictable torrid mass with menace looming on the horizon—kudos to Formloff for summing up life so perfectly.