SVARTEDAUEN (THE BLACK DEATH)
Original Issue: 1992 Tatra (TATCD 008)
Margot-meter: 5 moons / 5
1 The Black Death (38:27)
from Jester Records:
In 1992 came When's heaviest piece, Svartedauen (The Black Death), inspired by Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen's drawings with the same name, describing the ravages of the plague in Norway during the Middle Age.
This single 38-minute piece is by many considered Pedersen's most evocative album.
Svartedauen contains elements from Norwegian folk music played on fiddle and mouth harp, terrifying symphonic parts à la Death in the Blue Lake with pounding drums, choir and strings, and a carpet of other grotesque sounds: hearses, moans of the dying, rats, flagellants? whips and a scythe being sharpened, to name a few.
Did you record sounds yourself, or did you get them from elsewhere?
LP: "I mixed many of my own sounds, and borrowed some from Norwegian Film. Bernt Kanstad, the technician, was working there, so I got access to many sounds that I sampled, looped and used manually. And I recorded many scraping sounds on a big, old cello that was standing in the studio, but many of those sounds were heavily manipulated afterwards, so you can?t always hear that they are cello sounds. I like working that way: not using entirely natural sounds, but doing something extra with them".
from Volcanic Tongue:
When is the solo-project of Lars Pedersen, known for his work in Norwegian art-rockers Holy Toy in the 80s. His When project seems to be his own musical playground, as every album seems different from the other.
The later works have been prog-rock/pop vein, but Svartedauen, his third album from 1991, is a pure 38 minute musique concrète sound-collage. Svartedauen translates to The Black Death and the album is an abstract sound-journey of the plague entering and ravishing the Norwegian countryside in 1349, killing two-thirds of the Norwegian population within a year.
The album was inspired by a series of haunted and eerie drawings of Theodor Kittelsen from 1900 on the subject. Pedersen has made a soundtrack to it.
Fans of Norwegian black metal will recognize the Kittelsen art as the same that adorns the cover of several Burzum albums. A little known fact is that Burzum, and most other black metal musicians during their church-burning heydays, were big fans of this When album. Listening to it with that in mind it actually makes a lot of sense.
Svartedauen in many ways manages to evoke the feeling of doom and medieval dread that the rock-Satanists attempted with distorted guitars. It’s a scary and uncomfortable listen.