I have been peripherally aware of the Dutch black metal duo Doodswens for some time. I even caught the second half of their live set in Tilburg recently, opening for Marduk (traffic was a bust, or I may have caught the whole show). But it wasn’t until I laid my filthy kvlt paws on a copy of their debut full-length, Lichtvrees – released on vinyl on 28 January 2022 – that I actually took note of them to the extent that they deserve.
Part of my reluctance stemmed from the band’s press, which over-emphasized their gender: an all-female black metal band is hardly news in the country where Asagraum was born, after all. As such, I was concerned that the hype was limited to their chromosomes but a few spins later, and I could honestly not care less whether Doodswens identify as female, male, tea kettle or marmalade: Lichtvrees is simply glorious, a stirring example of all that makes black metal clichés a reason to get out of bed and slap on corpsepaint in the morning.
Whether it’s the respectful channelling of second-wave Norwegian fury in the vein of Gorgoroth or the deft application of downtempo passages or even the hefty reliance on feedback-aced atmosphere to paint a picture in gloomy umbral tones, there is simply nothing to complain about on this record. Not that that stops the sampled diatribe on “Ontplaatsbaren,” a pure field recording thrown in at track two of some hugely dissatisfied Dutch local – and his seagull acquaintance – waxing lyrical on all that is wrong with the world.
Album opener “In mijn bloed” sets the stage with a dynamic, tremolo-picked classic take on black metal.
The best part of Lichtvrees, however, is its monumentality: I have long held that Immortal’s Wacken Open Air headlining performance from 2007, The Seventh Date of Blashyrkh, was a tremendous achievement not for its novelty or virtuosity, but that a simple three-piece setup – guitar, bass, drums – could produce such a monstrous, monolithic presence. Lichtvrees achieves a similar result (albeit in a studio setup) but from only two members, Inge (on drums) and Fraukje (handling guitar and vox). The entire affair is a leaden, immovable and resolute slab of music, yet somehow it still flows like mercury: shimmering, heavy and deadly.
Personal highlights on Lichtvrees are the slow, moody introspection of “Eindzicht” and the melodic, hard-rock approach taken on the title track. The former simply because it most appeals to my personal musical palette, but the latter demonstrates such clever songwriting chops in its riff-led structure that I can’t help but applaud. More often than not, simplicity – even if it is deceptive – can yield powerful results, and the shift between major and minor throughout the composition throws down a palpable sense of tension that is nowhere near being dealt with by the time the album coda, “Lichtvrees II” takes over. The birdsong scattered across this closing composition, coupled with the spoken word outro feels like an authentic expression of ennui – especially since theatricality like this could easily backfire into the realm of the ridiculous.
I mentioned clichés earlier, but perhaps I should have used the term tropes instead: because, let’s face it, black metal is an over-the-top, melodramatic cliché – if it wasn’t we wouldn’t be able to laugh self-deprecatingly at it via the efforts of the likes of JP Ahonen’s excellent satirical comic, Belzebubs. Shifting moods, driven by relentless drums and simple atonal melodies are par for the course on this record, along with molasses-thick slatherings of nihilism and misanthropy, but it wasn’t on Lichtvrees that Doodswens started down this path: the duo’s self-titled 2019 demo already showed an affinity for this ‘traditional’ approach to black metal. And I can only salute them, as so many bands expand their repertoire and transition to progressive and post-black leanings, it is refreshing and heartening to hear a youthful project sticking to old, corroded and probably misfiring guns.
Lichtvrees Track Listing:
1. In mijn bloed
3. Zwarte staar
6. Het zwartewaterland
8. Lichtvrees II
Run Time: 36:24
Release Date: December 3, 2021
Record Label: Svart Records