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Tulus / Why we love the commonality of darkness and groove on Fandens Kall

Blodstrup and Sarke formed their first Black Metal band, the Norwegian underground cult act Tulus, in Nittedal, Norway, thirty-two years ago before going on to form Khold ten years later. They are back with their seventh Tulus full-length studio release Fandens Kall, a followup to their superb 2020 studio offering, Old Old Death.

Tulus – Fandens Kall (Soulseller Records)

Release Date: 17 February 2023

Words: Jools Green

Once again, their lyrics are in old Norwegian rather than the more commonly spoken modern Norwegian and, as always, written by Blodstrup’s wife, Hildr, who finds this a more expressive language. If you hear the prose read by her as a poetic piece you’ll understand why. The only time they deviated into English lyrics was with Biography Obscene, their first release after putting the band on hold to focus on Khold.

Fandens Kall continues in that wonderful groovy but aggressive, dark but massively atmospheric style that makes their music, for me, so irresistibly engaging, that groove coming from the superb union between Crowbel’s bass style, which is slightly unusual and Sarke’s very naturally rhythmic, rather than technical drumming style. As Ginger Baker once said, you can learn how to be a good technical drummer, but a natural rhythm is something you either have or don’t.

It’s also this groove, partly modelled on Crowbel’s bass style that Sarke implements when he steps out from behind the drum kit and picks up the bass for his self-named Black/Thrash project Sarke, that commonality of darkness and groove is why I love Tulus, Khold and Sarke so much, but I digress.

So, back to the ten-track, thirty-two-minute Fandens Kall, which features guest appearances of Anders Hunstad from Sarke on keyboards, Lars Erik Westby, who was involved in the recording and mixing of this album on piano and Lena Fløitmoen who has also guested on a couple of Sarke albums adding female vocals.

Opening on the title track Fandens Kall, an icy, punchy attention grabber from the off-set, repeatedly switches between those punchier elements and swathes of groove-rich bass. A track that sends a shiver down my spine it’s so good. Lek is suspensefully phrased with an ominous rise and fall. Slagmark is superbly forboding and hypnotic, with dark reflective passages where the lyrics are delivered with raw iciness.

Allstøtt has slightly more urgency and complexity to its construct, a fascinatingly engaging piece and even though it is under two minutes in duration, there’s a lot crammed into that time frame. Moving on to Isråk, an up-tempo and groovy piece with a hypnotically sinister undercurrent and a subtle complexity in the bass and guitar work. Midway as the guitars ebb back, Sarke’s drum work shines through to a greater prominence rather than the subtle bolstering to the groove and rhythm he usually delivers. There is a sublime burst of second-half leadwork too.

Eerily acoustic to open, Samuelsbrenna rapidly plummets into the dark, doomy depths with Blodstrup delivering some powerfully and unnervingly protracted vocals. The eerie acoustic element returns briefly midway before returning to the Black/Doom plod of before, closing on those acoustic elements. An unusual and impressively powerful piece.

Sjelesmerte returns to the more familiar blackened groove and features some cheeky riffs that pop their head up at regular intervals. There’s something almost jolly, musically, to this piece, which is ironic as the title translates roughly as ‘Soul Pain’, but regardless, I love this track. It soars superbly in the second half and has haunting backing female vocals adding further texture.

Bloddråpesvermer is an intense and icy beast of a track, very haunting and reflective, and I love the second half acoustic overlay and eerie piano close. Tulus come bouncing back with the up-tempo Snømyrkre, a groovy but dark, engaging number that really grabs your attention, with Sarke’s drum work popping through dynamically, really building on the groove. The final piece Barfrost is a dark acoustic piece with icy vocals.

Tulus have once again kept it classic and simple, and the result is absolutely superb. They are a grossly underrated band. Fandens Kall was recorded live, like past Tulus albums, without the modern approach of using a click track and, as is apparent with every note played, done out of the sheer enjoyment of creating music. Definitely their finest offering to date.

The eerily scenic cover artwork was crafted by Kjell Åge Meland.

Fandens Kall will be available in CD, limited edition vinyl available in three different colours or digital format via Season Of Mist (Europe & rest of the world), Code 7 via PHD (UK), Aisa / The Orchard (USA, Canada, Mexico)

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