Taking the listener back to darkened medieval times, Svartsot invite the listener on a juxtaposing journey of the lyrically somber theme of the Black Death in Denmark mixed with their brand of mostly cheerful folk-death metal. Released only 14 months after the lackluster Mulmets Viser, there was skepticism as to whether this material would follow suit, but the band have greatly improved in their sound, even if the formula of folk-infused death metal with low growls and traditional instruments is getting a little worn.
Frederiksen, as the only remaining original band member, has done well in preserving the Svartsot “feel” in his roles as guitarist, lyricist and composer. The sound has barely changed since Ravnenes Saga, but what has changed is the integration of the 'folk' instruments in the metal, rather than polarized opposites, such as in “Om Jeg Lever Kveg” (If I Survive My Cattle) and “Dødedansen” (Dance Of The Dead) where the bodhrán, mandolin and whistles' melodies interweave with the distorted leads and rhythm, with the unflinching drum patterns holding the structure down. Despite vocal changes, Bager bears similarities to Gnudtzmann in his Johan Hegg-like grunts and rasps that are made incomprehensible by both his delivery and choice of native language over English. As a result, any non-Danish-speaker automatically focuses on the music over the lyrics, hearing a mix of Amorphis and slower Equilibrium with a pristine production, a marked improvement over previous efforts.
The band takes a very interesting turn on “Spigrene” (Spears), with a very stripped down acoustic sound and low cleans (I assume provided by Bager), sounding more akin to a campfire song and would have been an interesting closer, were it not for the actual more mediocre closer of “...Og Lander Ligger Så Øde Hen” (...And The Land Lay Barren), which is a good song but a reminder of the by-now tired formula. The strongest songs are ultimately the ones that stick out most from the formula; “Spigrene” aside, this leaves “Holdt Ned Af En Tjørn” (Kept Down By A Thorn) and “Den Forgængelige Tro” (The Fading Faith) to hold up the flag for the rest of the album.
All in all, Maledictus Eris is not a bad album per se but hardly going to rock the already-brimming folk-metal bandwagon led by Eluveitie, Equilibrium, Moonsorrow. It is certainly an improvement on Mulmets Viser, and perhaps the variations in the formula will result in a differing album again next time around.
Angel's rating: 3.5/5
*Song translations provided by the wonderful photographer Tora Aarum.