Black Birch, Innovating Atmospheric Black Metal
Black Birch’s self-titled EP is a relatively odd offering. Collecting two previously released singles and two new tracks, Black Birch is an incredible slab of fresh atmospheric black metal. Despite a somewhat saturated scene, Black Birch sounds like a group of seasoned black metal veterans, and not relative newcomers who have only been around for less than two years.
With pretty much all instruments (including bass guitar) and vocals shared by both members, Gina Wiklund and Ulf Blomberg, it’s difficult to tell where one begins and the other ends. The energy and vision shared between the two is so seamless that it hardly matters.
Making Clean Guitars Sound Heavy
The melodic elements and chord voicings feel like something out of a modern post-metal/shoegaze release, but performed with the rash sensibilities of a second wave black metal band. On the other hand, it feels incredibly mature for a black metal record that doesn’t lean heavily into symphonic territory. Songs like “Death” could easily be rearranged to accommodate a full orchestra, but the instrumentation is still kept minimal.
For a genre that relies so heavily on clean guitar tones, few bands get it as right as Black Birch. “Fallen” and “Soil” feature extensive clean passages, and production serves the clean passages better than some other contemporary releases. This isn’t slick and overproduced, but you can still distinguish each layer during the most intense blast beats.
Despite the fact that “Soil” was previously released as a single, it’s still the standout track on this EP/collection. At no point does a tremolo passage or blast linger for too long (an easy mistake to make). The arrangements are concise. However, there’s a very marked difference between the two new tracks and the two old. It’s immediately noticeable in that the newer tracks are about two minutes shorter each, possibly indicative of a new direction/writing style for the band.
EP Today, Full Length In The Future?
The EP closes with “Birth” which is by far the most intense song on the EP, with relentless drumming, blistering speed, and fewer movements within the song itself. Both halves however, come together successfully to make a fully cohesive release, like two sides of the same coin. Though these songs might not necessarily be written to form one cohesive release, nothing feels out of place.
Overall, the Black Birch EP is the best way for new fans to engage with the material without tracking down multiple singles. The new songs fill in a gap that old fans didn’t realize was missing in their discography. While we’ll still need to hold our breaths for a proper full length album from Black Birch, this is more than enough to tide us over in the meantime.
Black Birch Links
Overall Score: 8/10
Review by: Tom Mis