This is not a well-named record. Ôfstân (the second full-length from Dutch outfit Kjeld) translates directly as ‘distance,’ but that’s one thing I’m having difficulty achieving. The band’s skillful blend of atmosphere and aggression keeps drawing me in until I’m having serious difficulty disengaging and paying attention to anything else.
Perhaps it’s the (multiple) comparisons I keep drawing between this Friesland-based band and one of my favourite luminaries of True Norwegian Black Metal – Kampfar. Kjeld’s vocalist Skier shares a gravelly tone with that of Dolk, as well as a multitude of styles – spoken, chanted, growled and screamed are all well represented on Ôfstân. That said, the Frisian lyrics themselves share the Germanic root that is present in Kampfar’s predominantly Norwegian content, so there’s another check in the ‘similarity’ column. Factor in a very strong sense of melody in the twin guitar attack of Tsjuster and Bile and you’re left with yet another likeness between the two bands.
“Betsjoend” typifies the Kjeld sound: fast tempo, massive percussion and a wall of textural atmosphere.
However, even if it weren’t that remarkable doppelganger effect (and make no mistake, once identified it cannot be ignored) Kjeld is a very strong contender in its own right, and a reminder of the small but strong Dutch black metal movement spearheaded by other Heidens Hart artists like Sagenland (whose last release, Oale Groond, was we reviewed here), Wanklank or Orewoet – not to mention the likes of up-and-comers like Laster and Asagraum, or bigger names including Urfaust, Cirith Gorgor, Carach Angren or the legendary Countess. Kjeld may stick to their guns in their pursuit of a ‘purist’ Scandinavian sound on Ôfstân, but a strong local black metal heritage has definitely fueled their rise.
The true stand-out on Ôfstân is the rhythm section, however: even though 2015’s Skym was well-received, here’s where the band truly has grown and matured. Fjildslach (also of Lugubre fame) launches a monumental battery on the kit, with both pace and groove well defined. This drum work is really typical of one of my most-loved characteristics of black metal, though – where drummers often outshine the guitarists and vocalists that occupy center stage for more ‘mainstream’ metal genres. Swerc’s bass contribution is not to be sniffed at, either: despite taking a supportive role in the proceedings, for the most part, the generation of Kjeld’s atmospheres relies heavily on this menacing, thick low-end presence. The album closer, “Konfrontaasje” (“Confrontation”) is just one example of this combination of speed tempered with ambiance out of nine really strong offerings.
Ôfstân is, as a result of all this, really good, coming up trumps in all aspects except its name – as discussed right at the start of this review. While the evocation of vast, open and empty spaces and the sense of isolation these bring can all be felt throughout the almost one hour playing time of Ôfstân, the overriding emotional response for me is one of interest and desire. Goed gedaan, Kjeld.
Ôfstân Track Listing:
2. De Iensume Widner
3. Wylde Rixt
6. Wite Fokel
7. Falske Doop
Run Time: 55:46
Record Label: Heidens Hart
Release Date: 15 February 2021