KVAEN – The Formless Fires (Album Review)


Kvaen is a new name for me although the band (well the one-man band as such) have 2 previous albums out in 2020’s The Funeral Pyre and 2022’s The Great Below.  The main man behind the project is Jacob Björnfot who hails from a place called Kalix which is apparently at the further reaches of Sweden not too far from the Finnish border.

The music it seems is inspired by the place he lives as he says in the bio “Because of our surroundings, bizarre weather conditions, northern lights etc help shape the way we see and hear things. It affects us more than we think“. The music is dark, heavy at times, frantic yet with a wistful folk vibe giving the album despite its heaviness a certain level of accessibility due to melody.  The album has 8 songs most around the 5 minute mark so nothing drags, and within each track there are riffs aplenty, some time changes etc keeping it interesting and entertaining.

The songs have a number of lyrical themes, whether it be about mythical creatures, being an outcast in society or indeed about strange ancient Norse suicidal rituals. The album has some guests, including Sebastian Ramstedt from the band Necrophobic and Chaq Mol from Dark Funeral, who supply guitar solos on a couple of songs. As I said most of the instruments are played by Jacob except for the drums where he has with him Frederik Andersson ex of Amon Amarth who does a terrific job. The drums absolutely pound on this!

Formless Fires

Opener and title track “The Formless Fires” has an official video so you can check the song out below if you wish. My tuppence worth on it is, I love the doomy opening chords and the thunderous drum fills before the whole song kicks into gear. Of course, it breaks into frantic guitar work and shrieked vocals in best black metal tradition, however there are changes in mood and pacing which keep it interesting. The guitar solo when it arrives is excellent and maybe it’s just me, but the beginning had me thinking he was going into the song “Hava Nagila” but only for a few seconds!


The second song “Traverse The Nether” has a fast start but slows down for the main riff which comes and goes through the track. What I appreciate is the guitar lines over the riffing which add so much melody to the piece. This is a track where he has one of the guests doing some guitar soloing, that being Sebastian Ramstedt. I am not sure but I think both he and Jacob do solos as there are at least 2 solos and they move from ear to ear (or speaker to speaker). There is definitely some folk vibes in the guitar lines!

Tornets Sang” is more commercial sounding, perhaps similar to Dimmu Borgir at their most melodic. This has the most repetitive chorus, as in it is, I think, the most repeated on the album. The solo has a bit of an Eastern feel to it as well, so a bit different to all the others. “The Ancient Gods” is one of the songs with an acoustic opening before a big doom-laden riff comes in. This song uses the guitar lines as melody over the riffage adding so much texture to the track. I found myself drawn into this song, it has a darkness about it which is quite beguilling.  Probably one of my favourite tracks on the album.


The album continues with “Basilisk” a song about the king of the serpents, a creature that causes death to those who dare look into its eyes! This again opens with some entertaining drum rolls and fills before the song kicks in and Frederik hammers the living shit out of his kit at speed. The intensity on this is superb, possibly made to rip the listener’s head off! There is some subtlety around the chorus, showing a more melodic side to this brutal onslaught!

De Dödas Sång” (or “Song Of The Dead“) is about “Ättestupa“, the ancient Norse suicide ritual whereby elderly villagers jump to their deaths from sheer precipices which was depicted in the movie Midsommar a few years ago. The song is the most folk-inspired track but still gloriously heavy. The opening is another acoustic one, it sounds menacing, The drumming at the start is almost militaristic before it fully kicks the doors in. This has my favourite riffage on it. The main riff is catchy, slightly upbeat and one that has moments that an audience could join in clapping (really). There are 3 or 4 different solos in the solo itself, each with its own feel or vibe. Lovely stuff.

Perpetual Darkness

The last 2 songs are more atmospheric, perhaps less changes going on in them. “The Perpetual Darkness” has for me the best guitar solo. It is full of feel and emotion, I feel like it takes me on a journey as I listen. “The Wings Of Death” is another masterclass drumming-wise. The drums are front and centre, even in the quieter sections the cymbal work is spot-on and crystal clear. There is of course, a guest on this providing some guitar solo work in Chaq Mol. The piece drew me in and held me tight for its duration as it is wonderfully dark and brooding.

This is the best black metal album I have heard for a while, the guitar work is excellent, both in the solos and in the way he uses guitar lines over the riffs adding melody and texture. It still has that brutal intensity that one would expect, along with those howling screamed vocals but Kvaen have added a twist to it melody wise and in Frederik they have a drummer that gives not only a great platform for the music but can take centre stage when required. Highly recommended!

The Formless Fires is out now on Metal Blade Records

Live touring band are…

Jacob Björnfot – vocals/guitars // Kristian Gustavsson – guitars// Rasmus Rova – guitars  // Per Lindström – bass  //  Fredrik Andersson – drums

Purchase Album Via Bandcamp  //  Via Label

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Check out my other articles and reviews here. Tom.



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