Sakna – De Syv Dødssynder

5 min read

Band: Sakna
Title: De Syv Dødssynder
Label: Independent
Release date: May 8th 2024
Country: Canada
Format reviewed: CD Quality Digital Promo

I stumbled over the song Del I – Helvete by Sakna and immediately decided to write a review of the full EP. The almost aggressive joy of the guitar and the unfolding of the melody felt epic in a surprising, euphoric way. I had not smiled so much from listening to a black metal song since I first discovered Hirilorn. Oh dear, was I misled by the first impression.

At this point I should give you a little bit of the background. As I researched the band for the review, I found that the artist had committed suicide 10 years ago and the music had been released by his brother several years later. Now you might ask why this is important. The music is all that matters, right? But I would argue that the background is relevant to the experience of the music, for better or worse. For the audience of the black metal underground the real persons behind the music have always mattered. We search for that spark of real spirit, something from the deep core of another soul that has been transferred to the music and into our ears. This is why we still care about what some teenagers did in Norway 40 years ago and this is why an almost inaudible recording from a garage can silence us in awe or the sacred. So with the shocking background information I started listening to Sakna – De Syv Dødssynderfrom the beginning.

The first song, Begynnelse – Sti starts slow and soft, catching the attention of the listener almost without saying anything. After several minutes of classical sounding build up that forms a sense of cold mist, the clean guitar comes in and an almost happy melody creates a crescendo. Still the happy flowing melody lies on top of a cold mist that makes it hard to breath. These contrasting emotions are difficult to reconcile. The pain of the contradiction set me in contact with my own losses. I find myself wondering what aspects of the grief came from the original music of Sakna and what was added in the production process by the grieving brother.

Then the second song starts, the melodic adventure that first made me smile, and the impact of this song is so different after the intro. I almost can’t take it. The outrageously melodic passages now seem dangerously uncontrolled, like the feeling of invincibility when you have nothing to lose – or the euphoria before a suicide. It travels in a spiral, on and on, the melody growing unstoppable. The references to Scandinavian folk music hits me hard and when it culminates with a melodic passage played by accordion I need to take a break. The painful clash of this raising energy, euphoria and underlying grief is too much. I feel that a disaster is approaching. Then the song ends and Del II – Skjaerselden starts, and it gets worse.

Now the melody slows down and the listener falls of the cliff with the music, flows like the ghost of a deeply missed brother into the cold lingering mist. The clean guitar still leads the way, but it is no longer spiralling, rather it has become stagnant and repetitive. At this point I pick up my phone to see how much of the EP is left – will it never end? When I realise, I am only halfway through, I am struck by a sense of hopelessness. I want to shut it down, distract myself with something that takes my mind of… well, that is the problem. This music has opened the door to my own grief, and it is not letting me leave. When I realise this, I decide to stay with it. By now I have stopped what I was doing, placed myself on a rock next to the sea, allowing myself to be led by the music.

Del III – Himmel is even slower, and the support of classical instruments and choir emphasizes the contemplative effect. There is a sense of endlessness and isolation that I realise is what I was trying to escape. This isolation is at the core of the experience of grief and loss. The feeling of being cut off, endlessly floating in the cold mist of a reality nobody can share or understand – and still, this very feeling of formless, endless isolation is shared by all who is grieving. In that moment by the beach, I feel a moment of universal connection. Then the slow waves grow into a crescendo of major chords and again the pain is unbearable.

The last song, Evighet, ends the journey in stillness, with sounds of nature backing up the harmonious build-up of classical instruments and slow clean guitar. Evighet translates to Eternity. I am left with a mixed feeling of hopeless tired grief and, I don’t know, maybe love. I think about the brother that has worked with the music left behind by his brother. Don’t we all wish we had a brother like that, one who would not back away from the pain and beauty we leave behind but take care of it and bring it to the world. My mind goes to the troubled teens of the beginning of the black metal genre and to the chaos and darkness often displayed in the music and sometimes in the lives of the artists. Is this what we are trying to do, reach out and create an opening with our music, reach that place where the pain and isolation breaks open a connection instead of shutting us down. What resilience and courage it must have taken for the surviving brother to delve into this material and then to treat it with so much skill and respect.

The EP ends with a bonus track that I will not include in the review. I could write at length about the importance of not adding bonus tracks to black metal releases since the ending is an important part of the whole, but this is not the right time and I am not in the right mood. Instead, I just stop listening as Evighet tunes out into nothing. No relief, no closing of a cycle. The last tune just dies out as if it is still searching for a place to rest. I hope this journey brought peace to the soul of Sakna and I hope the grieving brother found solace. 9/10 by Ask Den Hängde

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