That the first album by a band that became legendary for their black metal is one of the best death metal albums to ever be recorded is a very telling symptom of the sterility of the death metal genre in general. Although the listener will find in Soulside Journey the typical techniques that could be find in the music of just about any Scandinavian death metal band, the particular emphasis this band places on what is commonly known as “atmosphere” without leaving behind a proper idea of solid music construction makes it already musically1 superior to most death metal bands of its time.
This is the kind of death metal that does not rest on its laurels, assuming the distortion and raw sound of the instruments is going to do the job for them, but neither does it indulge in technical experimentation2 which would lead it to depart, even if only momentarily, from the conceptual theme being developed. Souldside Journey teaches us that style and genre are languages to be spoken, and that the work of art that makes use of them will be enriched by the content. It might surprise the listener who actually takes the time to experience this album and delve into its darkest corners, that even though death metal expression is used without exception and in a very traditional way, making each development logical and explicable, these moments are by no means predictable.
A variety of thematic power chord statements and cavernous tremolo-picked motifs are supported by convulsive percussion stops and rushes that are abundant enough to provide great movement and dynamics, yet do not overwhelm3 and take over so that the clarity of the whole is always at the forefront. Through them a seemingly innocuous suggestion of an internal journey is related in which the cosmos and the inner world are explored through ritualistic and entrancing visitations both physical and psychic. A fascinating companion to this work of art, and what could be considered the closest Fenriz has done to it in spirit, is Neptune Tower’s marvelous Caravans to Empire Algol.
A dark revelation leads to an inner awakening in which Death is realised as the single defining presence throughout man’s transcience. In finding a clue to divinity fused with mortal flesh, the individual is lead to burning away of all symbols, a nihilistic corrosion that must first consume him to the point of going through an inner death. Overcoming this stage can be done if a flame reignited, or if the torch of a deeper naturalism was carried to the sepulcre from the beginning, a light that will then guide the hero out again. The strengthening that thus comes about is inviolable yet not petrified, it is a living armor granted through earned merit and a mystical awareness planted on a firm, dark ground.
1 Because music is not only about a complexity of structures, but the meaning inherent in them through tradition and evocation.
2 For experimentation should be left for the laboratory. Music is art, you better know what you are doing, even if it is something adventurous, it should feel adventurous, not as if the musician is just stabbing at thin air.
3 As opposed to the very strong by ultimately unbalanced To the Depths… in Degradation by Infester