There’s an old joke among the extreme metal crowd that goes something like this: “My sex life is like my black metal tastes.. a solo bedroom project.” Now it goes without saying that there are plenty of grimacing edgelords occupying the fringes of the genre (and the basements of their parents) who embody this description alarmingly well. Still, in the same breath, several stand-out acts in the ‘one-man-metal’ segment are undeniably its poster people: if not for sexual charisma, then at least for excellent musicianship.
Obviously, there are the oldtimers, such as Jeff ‘Wrest’ Whitehead’s Leviathan or Scott ‘Malefic’ Connor’s Xasthur, but black metal is still spawning some remarkable up-and-comers, too. Consider the much-lauded (and deservedly so) Native American offerings of Blackbraid, one of 2022’s most exciting new artists, or the otherworldly and eldritch Mare Cognitum, whose discography grows from strength to strength. And now we can quite easily add Hilning to that roster.
Hailing from Sweden, a country better known for the visceral offerings of Marduk and Watain, or the melodic mastery of Dark Funeral and Naglfar, Hilning (the combined work of multi-instrumentalist Aldriendir) is more Norwegian in tone: the debut full-length Råtijinn is more easily likened to Kampfar or Windir than the aforementioned Swedish offerings. The merest brush with subtle folk stylings make this comparison an apt one – from the opening ambience of “Ôva Dommbqiłdân Dał” or the deft guitar melody on “Spårlöst Försvunnen” but nowhere more so than the ethereal, fluting melody that introduces “Ukko.”
But this folk-y whimsy is not all Hilning can do: there’s a metric ton of granite-think heaviness to be had, too. The closing trio – “Blodstein-Lux Regni Chao,” “Myrvitta,” and “Runola” – can easily satisfy the more traditional needs of the corpsepaint crowd. Simplistic melodies, blasting drums, tremolo overlays and torturous vocals that would make Mayhem proud.
And that’s really the winning combination at work on Råtijinn: the balance is deftly handled and convincing in its bleak, stormclad atmospheres. Sure, you have any number of neo-folk artists plying the ‘Vikings’ crowd with hurdy-gurdies and antlers nowadays, but it is music like this that so accurately captures both the brutality and spirituality of Scandinavian history, without resorting to a ren-faire aggregate of dreadlocks, hide blankets, beads and feathers. Tracks like “Finnmarkens Sista Rebell” are a glorious audible illustration of the era that conjures up as much shamanistic fervour as it does berserker rage: all in all, an excellent offering and an artist to keep in the crosshairs.
Råtijinn Track Listing:
1. Ôva dommbqiłdân dał
5. Blodstein / Lux Regni Chao
6. Finnmarkens sista rebell
7. Hamnbyte (Gå upp i björn)
9. Spårlöst Försvunnen
Run Time: 48:13
Release Date: June 17, 2022
Record Label: Suicide Records