Don’t let the fact that Dismal Euphony uses synths and female vocals dissuade you from giving Soria Moria Slott, a Black Metal masterpiece, a spin or ten. Throughout this album the listener is constantly shuffled back and forth amongst such diverse elements as: ethereal, haunting melodic vocal duets; ripping and distorted Black Metal guitar riffing driven by oddly muffled, blasting drumming; epic metalized folk melodies akin to the earlier work of Summoning; and grim, raw Black Metal pandemonium. All the vocals are sung in Norwegian.
The album opens with the 52-second track, “Prolog,” a nicely atmospheric synth repeated signature that ends abruptly before launching into “Et Vintereventyr,” a rollicking keyboard-driven showcase for Ole’s harsh vocals and simple but effective six-string riffing and Keltziva’s beautiful soprano vocal punctuations.
Next up is “Natten Loftec Sit Tunge,” a lofty but lo-fi, mid-paced Black Metal march into the apocalypse featuring some great bloody-throated shrieking and constantly shape-shifting melodic constructions.
“Alvedans” at first lulls the listener into a false sense of serenity with a neoclassical flute intro before launching into another mid-paced synth/guitar battle that eventually segues into “Fortidssjeledrepte?” a shattering number that is sure to please even the most diehard Immortal fanatic. Ironically, “Fortidssjeledrepte?” the most powerful track, wasn’t included on the original release of this album, and is only available on the limited edition re-release, which is the one I recommend acquiring. This release also has superior cover art.
A magnificent twin guitar intro quickly metamorphoses into the most epic track on the album. “Trolloundet” again recalls material by the likes of Summoning or Ancient Wisdom. Ole’s vocals are placed quite far back in the mix, almost hidden behind his rapidly picked, highly distorted arpeggios; a very effective combination that lends a latent power to the song that otherwise wouldn’t exist. And Keltziva’s angelic vocals absolutely shine on this track.
Next come the two longest cuts on the album: “Ekko” (9:49) and “Isgrav, Det Siste Hvilesred” (8:21). Both feature a plethora of Dismal Euphony’s strong points: Compelling folk melodies interspersed with tortured Black Metal vocals and distortion drenched guitars; excellent drumming; those gorgeous female vocals; and constantly shifting melodies that keep one’s interest piqued throughout.
Finally, “Epilog” brings us full circle, concluding the album with another simple synth melody that effects a soothing calm after the storm.
Unlike later D.E. releases, this one has vague production values that only serve to accentuate the atmosphere elicited by the terrific ensemble playing. This album should please Black Metal fans of all camps. From Darkthrone-worshipping grim-meisters to those who appreciate epic, symphonic Black Metal with outstanding male/female vocal interplay and lofty synth injections, this release should be a mandatory inclusion in any serious Black Metal collection.
NOTE: For those who are only familiar with All Little Devils and later releases, this version of Dismal Euphony has a significantly different line-up and sound. Vocalist Keltziva and keyboardist Elin Overskot (R.I.P.) were powerful and distinctive contributors to the musicality of Soria Moria Slott. The band’s sound changed significantly with their departure – more polished and less harsh. Indeed, the new D.E. doesn’t even sound like the same band. Although the later recordings are interesting, this is Dismal Euphony at their creative, dynamic peak.