This is the debut album from Illinois based black metal act Hrafnskald. Hrafnskald is a solo act that used to be a full band, but we’ll get into that later. CeannasaÍ is now the sole member, doing all instruments and handling vocal duty.

Let’s now go track by track on an adventure into raw black metal from the plains of my great state…

Hrafnskald – I really like the riff on this song. It’s total rock n’ roll, which is the way I like my black metal. Reminds me of the old stuff I used to listen to and really loved. I know CeannasaÍ probably thinks this is a true black metal song, but it’s regular rock n’ roll with a Bathory vocal. As stated that’s what I like. It even features a Viking-Era Quorthon inspired guitar solo line. Not sure if Bathory is the major influence here, but it sure sounds like it, mainly because the only band that ever really played what is referred to now as Black Metal was Bathory. Challenge me on that if you want, you’ll lose. What I want to point out here is that this particular kind of Illinois Black Metal varies from United States Black Metal. It has an endearing quality you won’t find in most stuff, even going all the way back into the ’90s. Too many people were trying to be European – and even though this song is distinctly Euro-flavored… it’s wrapped up in an Illinois hard taco shell. You have to crunch through the corn to get to the cheesy meat. You have to snap into it. Art thou bored? Then crank this song up, and get a little excitement going. Pop some viagra and see where these near 3 minutes take you! Ohhhh yeahhhh!

And Ruins Remain – Fast, Dark Funeral meets (very early) Summoning riff opens this blaster. Vocals stay in the Quorthon vein… AS THEY SHOULD! I like the rawness of this song, but it doesn’t grab me immediately like the first tune’s rock vibe did… until around 1:30 when we hit that exact style of BM that I enjoy most. CeannasaÍ is a killer guitar player. These riffs are good. It starts to remind me of Thy Infernal. This is Swedish Black Metal of the 1990s. Normally, I really hate Swedish Black Metal. I thought it was just garbage Melodic Death Metal with Black Metal Vocals but the riffs are dissonant enough that it stays black here and I approve. I even started to move my head with the music. I don’t do that…

Ecstasy of the Hunt – Bathory meets Tom G. Warrior who does a guest “Oooh” at the beginning of the song but then leaves. Now is the time to point out the bass playing on this album reminds me of Gene Simmons. That is not a bad thing. It has all the McCartney-isms and the slides, especially here in this song during the pre-verse breakdown. Vocals here are becoming their own thing and less of Quorthon channeling. Ted Nugent would be proud of the title of the song. I don’t know if it’s about hunting deer or bear or coyotes or wolves or other shitty vermin. It’s probably about some Conan bullshit where you ride on a horse and hit other dweebazoids with your gay ass sword. I don’t know; I’d have to ask CeannasaÍ. Interesting Gene Simmons bass from “Rock Bottom” and “Black Diamond” (on the “Alive” record) mixed together here around the 2:50 mark. The guitar solo fits perfectly over this. I think this is my favorite song here. I like the raw vocals. I’d recommend this album to friends based on this song, but I don’t have any friends.

Frozen Exile – Van Halen bass! My favorite kind of bass. I like good bass playing but when the bass holds down the low end as it should, there is more power there for the average non-musical listener. This starts out with a slow “Bloodfrozen” sounding guitar riff but moves straight into an Alcatrazz style of riff. Slow Black Metal, what a concept. My favorite kind! Good guitar solo around 3:00 mark. This guy CeannasaÍ is pretty cool.

While I can’t say something like “Wow, mindblowing experimentation, woah!” I can say this has been a good listen so far. You have to understand that I hate most music I get asked to review – so I don’t review it. The very fact that I am reviewing this should tell everyone something. 4:41 we go into Swedish territory again which I guess we’ve been in this whole time anyway. Cool ending reminding me of Alcatrazz again. I know, I know. You’re not gonna hear that in there. You’ll hear some other band but I’m telling you I’m right.

Seething Malevolence – Whenever I see “Seethe” I think of “Seether” but not the shitty band. I think of the fucking shitty song by that garbage Varuca Salt band. What a fucking horrible song! I like the vocals here on this song the best so far. Low growls! Death Metal vocal. Reminds one of bands like Varathron, Rotting Christ, or Intolerable Nudity. I know that CeannasaÍ wasn’t doing this, and it didn’t cross his mind, but there is a distinctly Tjolgtjar inspired bassline in this song. 2:14 mark. I realize it’s been done 100 other times, and there’s no influence here but… the fact remains. The drums here really push this song into war march territory, like on Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold.”

The Drowned – Thy Infernal / Dissection / Swordmaster style riff starts this song out. Quorthon vocal style returns and I really like this song. When I was a kid I ran into the lake and tried to kill myself. I think I was like 6, but I remember the water just going over me and being really happy…until I was pulled out of the fucking water by my family.

Change in riff to rock n roll, 1:30. Good song, a mixture of styles not found in most black metal. Let’s face the fact that BM is completely generic with 1532 bands that all sound exactly the same. Kudos to this CeannasaÍ person for not sounding like FUCKING Burzum.

March of the Fallen – Uh-oh, what happened? We’re fully in Viking Era Bathory now at the start of this tune. Excellent bass melody in the back, and I start thinking this is one of the best albums I’ve heard for a little while but I hold that thought back because I never say that about anyone. We hit 1:30 and the blasting is back. We get thrashier on this song. “Now is the time for my return to lands once my own…” What fucking lands? The Illinois River? Pretty sure that’s owned by pirates. As this song goes on I start thinking about something. I really don’t like the Chicago Cubs. And I hate Chicago. Not sure why I’m thinking that. Is there a message in this song, hidden in the mire of music? 3:34, cool breakdown. Fantastic song to end the album with.

To top it off, there’s a cover of a Satanic Warmaster tune.

Hrafnskald put out a demo in ’17 with a full band. I thought it was cool, but it was definitely not as powerful as this album.

Worth the money. Buy it.