Martin : So, for all of you who have been living in a cave or on an island for the past few years: Skitliv are an outfit founded by former Mayhem vocalist Maniac, who has teamed up with, among others, Shining's Niklas Kvarforth. With that out of the way, we can now get to the personal part of this review, which is, at least according to yours truly, a lot more interesting.
Skitliv's eagerly anticipated debut, 'Skandinavisk Misantropi', couldn't have found its way into my mailbox at a more appropriate time. In one of the most hectic and weird weeks imaginable, veering between excessively long and intense days at work and evenings full of concert after concert at night, with the odd interview in between, this album has served as a soundtrack for my slowly disintegrating state of mind during my nightly drives home. Admittedly, I really like my work and I feel privileged because I have the opportunity to do the things I do. Hell, I even drive quite a nice car! Nevertheless, lack of sleep can be wrecking, and isn't it at times like those that an album like 'Skandinavisk Misantropi' is the final nudge necessary to tumble downwards into outright bizarre states of mind?
Just don't expect to be blown away right from the start though, because this album is quite a slow-burner. The five minute intro almost feels unbearably long (ultimately adding to the drama) and the first two songs take many a listening session before they really kick in. Speaking of kicking in: from the title track onwards things become quite a bit more clear. The song starts with a spoken word bit not unlike what Maniac did on Mayhem's 'Grand Declaration of War', but the sheer spite in his vocals demonstrates that the vocalist has found a much more appropriate platform for his explosive array of emotions in the blackened doom of Skitliv. While especially his later days in Mayhem (Chimera) were not especially spectacular, Maniac showcases his newfound vitriol and filth-drenched visions of the already imminent demise of reality.
Fronted by two of black metal's most controversial figures and aided by a vast array of guest musicians, including Gaahl (who needs no introduction), Attila (even less in need of an introduction) and Current 93's David Tibet, whose haunting vocals on 'Towards the Shores of Loss' lift this album to an even higher level, a cycic can of course accuse Skitliv of a clever marketing scheme, but no worries: 'Skandinavisk Misantropi' is more than worthy and lives up, or exceeds, anything Maniac and Kvarforth have done before. The release is also a bit of a curveball, because the blend of rather classic sounding doom riffs, chilling feedback and unorthodox guitar sounds combined with black metal's malevolent grain is not the first thing to expect considering the backgrounds of all involved. There is nothing here to find for anyone looking for fast and furious black metal, with the exception of 'Densetsu'. This doesn't make 'Skandinavisk Misantropi' any less intense though.
How the mighty have fallen, and risen to unprecedented heights… In its massive seventy minutes, 'Skandinavisk Misantropi' compels and commands, no demands, respect. The album is not without its flaws, for the production could have been a bit more powerful to start with, but dammit, don't forget that this is only the beginning!