Judging from the romantic and energetic cover artwork of two birds storming through the air and the scribbled band logo, the listener quickly envisions that Standvast (‘Steadfast’) have composed a typical pagan black metal album. However, some doubts appear as soon as one sees the band picture of the Dutch duo in which vocalist and lyricist Rödulv presents himself masked with a burgonet, illustrating that Standvast might be more brutal in sound and lyrics than your average new-age, neopagan tree huggers.
Indeed, their debut album, Afkomst (‘Heritage’)—which for the time being is solely available on tape and digitally—features no folk melodies, no traditional instruments, and only a little bit of occasionally cliché pagan symbolism (hear, for example, the song ‘Heathen Resistance’). Standvast are a black metal band before all else, and they tend to focus on the raw and dirty aspects of this music than on the more epic and atmospheric parts which are so often channelled by typical pagan bands.
Although Afkomst starts rather slow and gloomy with ‘Onzichtbare draden’ (‘Invisible Threads’), working solely with a synthesizer and reminding the listener of early Mortiis releases, its successor, ‘Hoogmoed komt voor de val’ (‘Pride Goes Before a Fall’), with its pounding and monotonous drums, sharp riffs, and harsh vocals basically sets the pace for the entire album. There is definitely energy to be found in the simple yet effective song structure, and the only negative aspect of the music is Rödulv’s vocal approach, which would make the music even more furious if they weren’t mixed so deep into the background. Effective minimalism is, for example, also displayed in the song ‘Het ware symbol’ (‘The True Symbol’)—an ice-cold black metal composition which reminds the listener of early Darkthrone and Immortal. No doubt, one had to listen to such black metal tracks more than once in the past few years; however, Standvast make this song sound fresh and powerful which, more than anything else, has to do with Nortfalke’s skills on guitar.
Obviously, there is little here that could be considered subtle or arcane; however, Standvast have also decided to not just use synthesizers in the intro, but also in specific songs like ‘Gulzigheid’ (‘Greed’) and ‘Vraatzucht’ (‘Voraciousness’), which not only gives them a melodic edge but also make them sound like Satyricon compositions during their early era of Dark Medieval Times and The Shadowthrone. Thanks to the fact that these songs have a gentler and calmer edge, they provide a nice respite from the pounding and straightforward compositions on Afkomst.
While Afkomst is the duo’s debut, one can immediately hear that Nortfalke and Rödulv are no mere novices when it comes to creating black metal. Both musicians are well-known in the Dutch scene for bands like Lugubre, Kjeld, Gravenfeld IX, and also for their new collective project called Tarnkappe, for which they released a strong debut in Tussen hun en de zon. This experience is clearly audible through coherent songwriting, skillful instrumentation, and in their ability to evoke an organic atmosphere from the first to the last song. Afkomst is a strong album, and one can only hope that Nortfalke and Rödulv will decide to pursue this band further and release more material under the banner of Standvast.
01) Onzichtbare draden
02) Hoogmoed komt voor de val
04) Het ware symbol
06) Last van het bevel
07) Houd stand!
08) De bloedrode nederlaag
09) As Wolves Feed
11) Heathen Resistance
12) De teerling is geworpen