Label: Fysisk Format
With hard-hitting, heavy music, the temptation can be to simply focus on the most obvious elements; to make the music heavier, louder, more vicious, and assume that doing so will have the desired results, and make your band stand. Whilst that can sometimes work, it’s no guarantee of success. Instead, adding some melody and brightness can be just as effective, if not even more so. It’s a lesson Ondt Blod have taken to heart on Natur, with the album mixing hardcore weight and violence with classic pop melodies and harmonies, with memorable results.
Those pop hooks stand out clear and strong on Natur, to the extent that there are moments during the album that are radio-friendly, despite being played on heavy distorted guitars. Cleanly sung vocals that pull from the likes of Pet Sounds are as prevalent as traditionally harsh hardcore techniques, and even if you don’t understand the Norweigan lyrics, the choruses are still likely to be stuck in your heads for days. There’s a lot of brightness to Natur as a result, and it makes the album a lot of fun to listen to, in the manner of the best pop-punk.
That’s not to say that it’s all radio-friendly though, and there’s still a lot of aggression here. ‘Med Ulver’ features a mid-tempo riff around its middle that wouldn’t be out of place on South of Heaven, and the opening moments of ‘Start Han Opp’ bring the likes of Ringworm to mind. The pop hooks and sense of youthful energy present on Natur might be what sets it apart from the vast majority of other hardcore records being released today, but there’s more than enough muscularity and violence here for it to sit comfortably within the realms of punk.
Given this meeting of worlds, Natur reminds me quite a lot of what Baroness attempted with Yellow & Green, bringing their brand of pop-infused metal to a larger audience. It’s a valid comparison, as Ondt Blod have a similar command of hooks and harmony, and some of the guitar licks could easily have been written by John Baizley and co. Yet whereas that album was, for all its moments of greatness, slightly bloated and directionless at points, Natur is a record that is shed of all fat and excess, and at 36 minutes, is pretty much the perfect length. The aggression doesn’t become wearing, and nor do the sugar-sweet, bright melodies become sickening. Any more would be excessive; and less, not enough to make such a strong impact.
Complaining about how accessible and instant Natur is would be to miss the point; this is an album that wants to get the listener on board right from the first notes, and succeeds in doing so. It is a youthful, optimistic listen, combining two very different aspects with skill to great result. If you’re looking for hardcore that’s all about hatred and misery, you won’t find it here; but if you want something that’s decidedly fun, whilst also being hard-hitting, then Natur could be what you’re after.
Natur is due for release on 9 Mach 2018. It can be pre-ordered via Bandcamp.