It is without a doubt acceptable for a debut album to follow in the footsteps of traditions as long as it is possible to hear and discern that the musicians show talent and potential to eventually leave their worn-out tracks and dare to risk the break with their musical idols. This is the specific challenge for the five musicians of Lęk (which means ‘fear’ or ‘anxiety’ in Polish), who stem from Ruda Śląska—a not-so-small city in the Silesian Voivodship—and who have dedicated themselves to upholding the flag of orthodox black metal.
Sweven: Through the Mysterious Lands appears to be an archaic English word meaning ‘dream’ or ‘vision’, which could lead to the listeners’ expectation that Lęk combines its melodic black metal with so-called post influences. This is far from the truth. Lęk stays true to its musical heritage and do not only ignore any kind of softer elements, but also leaves behind its cultural socialization in Poland, meaning Sweven: Through the Mysterious Lands sounds much more like Lord Belial, early Dissection, or Naglfar than Mgła, Blaze of Perdition, or Outre.
Those who are not new to the genre will know what that means: Drums dash forward with furious speed while guitar riffs try to sound simultaneously melodic and aggressive in order to make the songs catchy yet not trendy. Typical black metal shrieks and unagitated bass lines complete the eight rather long songs featured here. It is a pity that Lęk make too little use of the lead guitar and the possibility this instrument offers for this musical genre. Some spectacular solos or some well-implemented lead guitar performances could have given the compositions a real edge. One can even hear the first indications of a potentially interesting use of this instrument—for example, during the middle passage of the song ‘Femme Fatale—but all in all, it is not enough to excite the listener.
Nevertheless, Lęk have studied their peers and are able to implement some of the best qualities of (Swedish) black metal into their sound. Take, for example, the short yet expressive gothic intro to the song ‘Unification’, which organically develops into an aggressive and explosive black metal track. This is well-done and shows that Lęk are able to prove themselves as songwriters. One also recognises with pleasure that Lęk are at least sometimes capable of giving the bass guitar some room, as so happens in ‘In the Wintry Coldest Night’, which belongs in the list of the strongest tracks on Sweven: Through the Mysterious Lands in general. And praise must be given to the title track which appears last on the album and exhibits one specific impressive aspect of Lęk: namely, the ability to write long songs which are somehow able to keep tension at a maximum. Surely one has heard better black metal tracks of this length, but as mentioned above, Lęk’s debut album can only serve as an indicator of what could be possible on a further release.
Sweven: Through the Mysterious Lands leaves an ambivalent impression. It cannot be denied that Lęk have managed to craft an album in the vein of their Swedish idols, but this, naturally, leads to the consequence that their first long-player simply is not very exciting. Lęk have difficulty with composing songs with rough edges and unexpected turns because they follow their musical tradition too narrowly. Nevertheless, there are moments and passages present where one can undoubtedly hear quality and potential when it comes to a future release. With their second work, they therefore have to convince their potential audience that they can write songs that are both capable of shocking the listener and leaving them in awe.
02) The Solitary Elect of Darkness
04) My Death
06) Femme Fatale
07) In the Wintry Coldest Night