It feels like a rare occurrence to encounter new Norwegian black metal that actually delivers on atmosphere and authenticity. Thirty years since the explosion of the movement (yes, it has been that long), it seems like there’s little left to add, and the standards set by the greats have been long forgotten in favour of exposure and cruising on the brand. Most late-model bands from the region offer us the standard “Norsecore”, with caked-on corpsepaint, requisite spikes, sawing riffs, and throttled vocals, but yet no real connection to darkness or fantasy.

This is where Ekrom proves to be a breath of fresh air. Helmed by two veterans players, Thomas Ødegaard of Nocturnal Breed, and Kharon of Covenant (from the first album, when they were good), this project doesn’t just check off all the required boxes of “true kult”, but actually returns to the grandeur and wonder that typified the sound at its genesis. Don’t expect a tinny boom-box recording, mind you. This is very well-performed and warmly produced, while still preserving the necessary grit and ugliness around the edges.

The album offers a lot of layers and dynamic throughout, with some songs striking at a blazing pace, while others settle into hypnotic mid-paced trudges that lead the listener down eerie and mysterious paths. The effect is helped notably by subtle application of keyboards, which enhance the core themes without straying into bouncy symphonic territory. A few carefully applied acoustic passages only help in enhancing the mood of the compositions, allowing them to go from massive to dreamy, and then back again. The vocals are caustic and shrieked, but they sit well within the sound field and offer enough variance to prevent the ear fatigue common to many black metal albums.

The factor that sets this release apart from the glut, though, is its thoughtfulness. These songs were clearly written for artistic gratification, rather than to cynically sell to a superficial fan base. There’s nothing going on here that signals any ambition to “make it big” or get onto the repetitive summer festival circuit. On the contrary, Ekrom seems to be devoted to preserving the foundations of their infamous sub-genre, right down to the commitment to relative obscurity. Uten Nådigst Formildelse exists out of nothing more than a desire to create something meaningful, and that’s the best reason of all to support it.

Uten Nådigst Formildelse releases on June 6th.