I have been incredibly excited about music recently. I work with musicians all the time for my job, and it’s gotten me so juiced up for anything new or unusual. I bought a ticket to go see Cattle Decapitation later in the year, and took it as an excuse to finally listen to their latest record, Terrasite. It’s the kind of album that had – and still has – me gobsmacked. I expected it to be good, but I got so much more than I bargained for, and that sparked something in me: I’m excited about new music, as well as music I’ve heard before; it’s as if I’m hearing everything for the first time. And so I picked an album that had me excited instantly – Swedish black metal duo Haradrim’s Death of Idols.
The first track I heard was “Venus Falling” – what a ripping song. I fell for its chilling, reverb-drenched riffs and grim harmony almost instantly, and by the time it came to its striking, simple, sparklingly opaque chorus, my little heart had opened up to it completely. I became consumed; I didn’t know what I had been looking for, but I knew I’d found it. One of my favourite sections on the entire album is the song’s bridge, which features an absolute gem of a solo – its beauty is masterful in its austerity; it’s executed with absolute elegance. “Venus Falling” is the kind of song I could listen to on repeat and keep finding tiny subtleties that delight me, or just continue to revel in its desperate power. Even having heard the album over and over again, this song still hits just as hard as the first time, if not harder, and remains one of my favourites.
Another standout track for me is “Godless”. It’s just absolutely perfect, it doesn’t let up; it’s continuous frantic trem picking, each moment charged with adrenaline, right up until the song descends into two of the dirtiest riffs on the album. The drums launch into a filthy half-time groove that seems to slow down even further, before coming back in with pummelling double kicks underneath a beautiful stack of harmonised leads that draw together to become a perfect, soul-searing solo. There’s something awe-inspired, fervent, visceral about this track. The vocals are bristling – it’s the kind of song that makes you raise your eyes to the heavens and pray to whatever deity you choose that it will never end. There’s something spiritual, but unsurprisingly unholy, about “Godless”, and I’m here for it.
In fact, I feel like ‘God’ is one of the most frequently used words on the album. From what I could find out, Haradrim do seem to err on the side of Satanism, yet never mention the Prince of Darkness by name or in any other explicit way (as far as I could tell). However, the band reference God again and again, along with sin, the spirit, and (anti)Christ. Of course, that’s 100% to be expected from a black metal band, but I feel Haradrim found a nice balance between letting their feelings on organised Christianity be known, and yet not overdoing it and becoming cringy pseudo-Luciferians.
The religion-critical overtones of Death of Idols are one of the many things that reminds me of one of my favourite releases of 2021, ILLT’s Urhat. The two albums toe the line between assailing organised religion and straight-out disrespect for any and all religious folks, and it’s something I like. How many crimes have been committed in the name of a god, how many people have died, how many cultures lost their integral structures through being ‘saved’?
Stylistically as well, Death of Idols shares a lot with Urhat, and, by a further stretch, Bloodbath’s glorious Nightmares Made Flesh – unrelenting, powerful riffs, harsh yet easily decipherable lyrics, and gosh-darn catchy choruses. Nightmares Made Flesh is almost entirely death metal, with little to no blackening; Urhat is pretty much bang on 50/50; and Death of Idols leans strongly towards black metal with a little bit of death. In my mind, they’re some sort of unholy trinity. But I digress; let’s get back to the songs.
Death of Idols is absolutely stacked. “Defiling of Spirit” features a wonderful, Bloodbath-y melody over the chorus and a super chuggy breakdown before one of the only clean sections on Death of Idols. Together with “Godless”, the brief but brutal “Nero”, and the forebodingly catchy “Demigod”, it makes up the heart of the album – the Flawless 4 middle tracks. I wouldn’t change anything about these songs if I could – they’re just perfect.
Even after that magical mid-point, the album is still absolutely fantastic. “Conquest” and “The Price of Compliance” are just straight bangin’, if perhaps a little too long/repetitive for my taste. I like “Acheron” too, especially the chorus riff, and “Ashes of Warsaw” rounds off Death of Idols in a satisfyingly grim and epic fashion. The album is a fine example of modern black metal, the kind that doesn’t shy away from being a little catchy. It’s still dark, anti-religious, and upholds many of the musical conventions of traditional black metal, without insisting on lo-fi production or indistinguishable vocals.
I thought Death of Idols was kind of fun initially – the catchy choruses, the occasionally charmingly strange riffs, the very on-the-nose lyrics. I liked it, and I liked it more every time I heard it, but I never loved it until I was having an incredibly bad day; the kind of day where everything seems so overwhelmingly pointless that the mere thought of getting to the end of the day is daunting at best, and seemingly impossible at worst.
Right from the beginning I knew that day was going to be a write-off – I’d gone to sleep in sorrow, and woke up feeling I hadn’t slept enough and all I wanted to do was sleep forever. Somehow, the album’s opening title track seemed to capture everything I was feeling perfectly. The emotionally charged chord choices, the nihilistic lyrics (‘We are the dust/Sand in an hourglass’), the perfect balance between dissonance and pure heartwrenching beauty. I felt my spine arch and my face grow hot as I sat, listening in awe and agony to this little-known band from Sweden, who, months ago, seemed to know exactly what someone like me would need in a moment like this.
It’s albums like Death of Idols that make me appreciate reviewing. This duo from Sweden, who formed only two years ago, have created something so thematically timeless and musically modern, an album that I certainly believe will become a classic at least to me, in the same way Urhat did; and I, some sand in an hourglass on the other side of the globe, got to hear it and share my thoughts on it. That’s fucking awesome.