Sweden’s Craft are a pillar of modern black metal, whether you know it or not. Formed in 1994, Craft (formerly Nocta) brought a hateful, misanthropic quality to their sound that shared a kindred spirit with their more extreme pagan brothers to the south, while bringing a slightly more unhinged, punk spirit to the table. With a riff heavy style reminiscent of Darkthrone, Craft have returned after a six year hiatus with their new album Void. Six years is a hell of a long time between releases, but if you’re seeking a perfect example of stripped down, classic, blown out black metal, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better record this year. Weighing in at over fourty five minutes, there’s enough variety on this record to warrant many a close listen.
After a short ambient swell of an opener, we cut into the first track, “Serpent Soul”. With a sinister riff that sounds like it could have come straight off Transilvanian Hunger, singer Mikael Nox takes the reins, his voice a gravel laden growl that lies perfectly on top of the writhing instrumentals. Slowing things down near the midpoint you get the chance to appreciate the masterful guitar work of Joakim Carlson and John Doe as a slow, extended solo morphs into a repetitive buzzsaw riff interplaying perfectly with the lead guitar.
The next track, “Come Resonance of Doom”, opens up with a plodding, hypnotic, bass driven riff accented perfectly by guitar flourishes. The dual guitar work of John and Joakim kicks into overdrive two minutes in, a simple but incredibly catchy riff taking over for Mikael. For a band that’s been together for so long, the one that stands out here is that nothing dominates any one track on this record. With relatively clean production the lead and rhythm guitar work in tandem, never sounding redundant or overbearing. Mikael’s vocals are perfect in the mix, and Dirge Rep’s drums, albeit simple, are the glue that keeps this well oiled hate machine running.
“I Want to Commit Murder” is one of this albums highlights. A galloping punk inflected black metal anthem with amazing guitar work. There’s obviously some level of influence from Swedish death metal here as an intricate guitar solo swirls around before the rather straightforward chorus of, you guessed it, “I Want to Commit Murder”. The death obsessed lyrics throughout this album come off, in all honesty, refreshing. There’s no hidden political agenda here, no secret NSBM leanings, just raw fucking hate for this entire planet.
The final track, “Void” opens up with ambient noise, what could be the sound of city streets at night, before a massive, slowed down riff settles in. At eight minutes, this is a beast of a track giving Joakim and John enough time to experiment with amorphous, evil sounding riffs while the bass pounds out a single note funeral march beneath. This track is a true invocation of the void, a mid-paced funeral march with a claustrophobic sensibility buttressed by the oppressively simple bass line.
Craft aren’t for everyone. If you’re looking for the next big thing or the hot new trend, look elsewhere. Craft are firmly planted in their roots. Oppressive, hateful, punk inflected black metal that never compromises. They’re at the top of their game on Void, revealing a starkly mature songwriting sensibility that showcases every member simultaneously. The riffs on this record will stick with you long after the albums over. Craft have put together a beautiful package for this release, so do your best to buy this retail. The art in particular sticks out. No satanic ribcage fonts and corpse painted night warriors adorn this album cover, instead we have a triumphant shadow of a man raising his fists towards a writhing mushroom cloud; it’s a perfect metaphor for this record-joyous insanity in the face of utter annihilation.