Black Birch – Black Birch EP

Black Birch – Black Birch EP
Vita Detestabilis Records & Fiadh Productions
Release Date: 01/09/23
Running Time: 21:54
Review by Oli Gonzalez

Here in the UK, autumn has begun. That means temperatures slowly begin to drop, days become shorter, nights become longer, and if you’re anything like me, you start to turn to the black metal end of the vast spectrum of the genre. Which was why I was intrigued to check out Swedish ambient black metal duo, Black Birch. 

I particularly enjoyed what was a traditional black metal album yet with the band’s own modern take on the genre. Traditional elements can be heard in ‘Death’, especially with the melodic gentle guitar riffs. Rather than being hit with the fear-inducing KVLT tremolo-picked style riffs, there’s a much more ambient and soothing feel to these riffs. Much in the same way that Naragaroth would do. That’s not to say that the band can’t do heavy, because there’s certainly evidence of that throughout the album. Superfast blastbeats, fully distorted guitars, and Gina’s blood curdling screams over the top are enough to match the ferocity of any black metal band. What separates them is the clever interchanging of these calmer passages with the raw balls-to-the-wall rage intensity, hinting at a subtle and intricate talent for song composition and psychology. 

Black metal is often criticised for ‘having no bass or rhythm’. Industry heavyweights Rotting Christ and Belphegor were amongst those to change that by incorporating slower chunkier and bass heavy passages into their sound. Black Birch have certainly done the same as I can hear evidence of this in the mid-section of ‘Birth’, thus offering a more modern twist on the genre. As well as dissonant guitar sounds in this track, much like you’d expect in a hardcore song, thus expanding the band’s sound.

Vocally, I’m a little undecided. There’s no doubt that the vocal tone is dripping with raw human emotion and can sound down-right fierce. I think there’s a fine line between having sound technique and control, and having that emotion there. Sadly, I think Gina drifts too close towards sounding out of control on occasion. Consequently, this can make it very difficult to understand the lyrics, which are said to be based “around the topic of human nature and humans’ place and effect on earth”. Sadly, it’s hard to really connect with any of these topics from the lyrics which are not easy to pick up. I wonder if this is more of a production issue however, as the album does sound a bit raw at times. I’ve definitely heard worse from black metal albums early in their careers though. The production is perhaps what’s holding the band down from expressing their full potential in this great record, though this certainly something easily fixed. 

At just over 20 minutes in length, the self-titled debut EP is brief, but allows you enough time to catch a glimpse of the band’s full potential. They’re seemingly holding something back and haven’t exhausted their full creative reserves yet. I think this is great. I definitely want to hear more from them! For now, I’m quite happy to sit back with my headphones on and let this short black metal wave wash over me. After all, we’re heading deeper into the autumn season and nights will become longer. I’m pretty sure I’ll be giving Black Birch a rightfully earned place in my black metal rotation. I’m hoping you do too! 

01. Fallen
02. Death
03. Soil
04. Birth

Gina Wiklund – Vocals, Guitar, & Bass
Ulf Blomberg – Drums, Guitar, Bass, & Backup Vocals


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