(TheBRHM.com) Originally, we were going to sit down and talk with Norwegian black metal artist Halfden Svarti of the bands Moor and Phantom Castle but putting a schedule together to questions, send them out, and go back and forth is…an adventure. While the interview will happen, it didn’t go down in spring of 2022 as I was expecting.
With that said, we will be looking at this artist’s work in Moor and Phantom Castle. Think of this as the introduction before the interview. You know, explore the work of Halfden Svarti before we get the firsthand insight into the songs from these bands.
We’ll start with the band I heard first with Halfden’s black metal project Moor. Now, just a disclaimer: I’m not the biggest black metal fan. Or rather, there’s a period or a specific sound from that period I really love when it comes to this genre. I’m talking about the older stuff like Bathory, Venom, Bulldozer, and Sarcafago. I wouldn’t make an issue of it if you added early Sodom to the list.
The point is that I dig that production and variety in vocals as well as the generation of black metal that came afterwards. One of my top three—Darkthrone—came out of that second generation of the genre.
Moor is likely a young band—we’ll find out in the interview—but you can hear a lot of that second, heavily Norwegian-led 90s black metal in the first two singles for “I Am the Forest” and “The Nighthag.” These two songs mark the lengthiest of Moor’s tunes at a bit over five minutes each but you get to hear what Halfden Svarti can do in longer form—or as I like to say “with more room to groove.”
Of course, I dig speed and shorter, punchier tracks as my articles here on The BRHM show and Moor has them! The demo Worthless Abomination was released in March 2022 and featured the tracks “Concubine Upon the Altair” and “Suffering Whore (in a Epic Burial)”. Both tracks had what I expect from black metal I’m going to sit and listen to: aggression and speed that rides.
Speed in black metal can be presented in different ways. The listener can be blasted and buried by a wall of sound or they can ride out a song or album at a fast pace without being totally smothered. If anything, this kind speed is similar to old school thrash or 90s power metal before it became more epic in scale and in some cases more symphonic.
Moor’s brand of speed on Worthless Abomination allows the listener to take in the tales that Halfden is weaving while also enjoying the atmosphere. We aren’t just ripping through this blackened speed metal style—which I do love—but at the same time, these aren’t slower-than-pancake-syrup tunes.
Beneath the Graven Totem is the other demo which has a few tracks that are identifiable only by number, but I also found it enjoyable. The thing here is that Moor’s output is such that you can’t really tell how much he improved from release to release. These singles and demos all dropped between 2021 and the summer of 2022.
Unless Halfden was rehearsing in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber from Dragon Ball Z—which would be pretty damn cool to practice the strings and drums in 10-times gravity while a day equals a year—I wouldn’t expect a noticeable change in ability. It’s possible but Moor’s releases had this Darkthrone/Motorhead/Sodom-like consistency across them.
Mind you, I’d only use that descriptor for consistency from album to album but it’s the same scale of consistency. Halfden is aiming for an October 2022 release for Moor’s debut album, so it’ll be interesting to hear the new material as well as what has already been released and it fits on album.
Before we move on to Phantom Castle, I recommend swinging by Moor’s Bandcamp and checking out the band’s tunes. The Forest Rituals compilation includes the first two singles “I Am the Forest” and “The Nighthag” as well as the Worthless Abomination demo—remember, it comes with two tracks as well.
Now, on Phantom Castle’s Bandcamp, the band’s style is described as encompassing power metal, speed metal, and thrash and as being a one-man project with some featured artists. Meanwhile, over on Metal Archives, the band is described as heavy metal and thrash and has Jack Shit as the vocalist. However, if you check the Medieval Ghouls entry, we have the long-deceased Jack Shit—formerly of The Mentors—as the vocalist.
That’s the power of metal, folks. You can pass away in 2011 and still deliver some good vocals a decade later from the grave. Seriously, it’s a different Jack Shit doing the vocals on two of the band’s two releases along with guest guitarist Odd Øyvind Ekornsæter delivering the solos on the debut EP.
Besides those two contributions, everything else was handled by Halfden for this one. As for the genre: it’s a mix but I believe it’s an album-to-album thing. The first demo by Phantom Castle is Trauma? Starring: Jack Shit. Released in May 2022, there’s a thrash metal/hardcore punk base in both tracks with Jack on vocals.
The punk element comes more from Jack than Halfden, Odd, and guest soloist Stian H. Schei. I’d say they were here for the thrash/speed metal element of the songs which is kind of the root of Phantom Castle’s sound.
Rewinding one album, we have the Medieval Ghouls EP—which sounds like a lost album by The Misfits or Nekromantix from the title. However, it’s anything but horror-doused hardcore punk. There are definitely tales to be told in this three-song EP and Jack’s alternating vocals are a great touch.
Before dive all the way into Medieval Ghouls: the logo is awesome, and I dig the album artwork. Never change the logo.
The sound in this EP is different from Trauma? It seemed like these songs as along with Trauma and the released Unfinished Tales were all part of one 2021-2022 recording period. However, they ended up scattered into three different releases. The Trauma tracks—which, should Phantom Castle be around for ten years—are something I’d like to see become the Trauma Tapes.
While it isn’t the sound that sold me on giving Phantom Castle—and later Moor—a listen, it was pretty cool. If anything, I’d say do as they do in hip-hop with mixtapes and just make the more punkish stuff a series between full-length and EP releases of Phantom Castle’s stuff.
Back to the vocals of Medieval Ghouls as I’m a vocals fan—Jack did the business here. I really enjoyed his wails—unless these are Halfden’s wails. “Everything” and “all instruments” does include vocals if he did them, after all. Being a fan of singers like Rob Halford, Gerrit P. Mutz, King Diamond, and Siki Spacek, vocals that add to the atmosphere of the songs and aren’t there because “We need vocals on this track” is a big thing.
Jack’s vocals work with the fast pace of the songs and don’t seem out of place at all. I mean, it helps that he did the lyrics as well. On that note, you can kind of see that Phantom Castle is supposed to be leaning towards thrashier power metal. The aggression that comes with Jack’s vocals push this release away from power metal as we know it today to the harder-edged epic metal.
Actually, it’s not just Jack’s vocals doing this. Halfden and Odd’s playing is aggressive as well, so this wasn’t going to be Hammerfall or Iron Fire-type power metal. If I had to mix bands to explain the sound here, it’s as if American power metal pioneers Omen formed a supergroup with Canadian thrash legends Razor and the remains of Swedish thrash band Cranium.
They would take the thrashier approach of Razor and Cranium but Omen won the coin toss on lyrical themes and the stylistic approach. The result is some speedy, rough power metal—and I like that approach! Especially with how much European power metal used to get roasted as “flower metal”.
It’s not a fresh approach because you have bands like Rebellion, Stormwarrior, Sacred Steel, and Sabaton that really show “There ain’t no flower in our metal.” However, I always dig when younger power metal bands come along and take the hard-edge approach.
I’d say definitely give Medieval Ghouls a listen. It’s three tracks at a little over 25 minutes. The first two tracks are well worth a listen, for sure.
Unfinished Tales is a demo of unfinished tracks in instrumental form. This goes back to my theory of all these releases originally being part of one album recording session and some stuff—Trauma—veering off course. Then you had these tracks which were just unfinished.
I’m not the biggest fan of instrumentals, neoclassical metal, or shred but these are all solid. I’d like to hear these with the vocals that Halfden intended for them. It’s as if they were supposed to be with the Medieval Ghouls tracks.
Who knows, maybe they will be finished down the line. The tracks you’ll really want to check out are “Knights of the Hexagonal Table” and “Phantom Castle”. Seriously, the self-titled track deserves its vocals! Also, it’s the strongest song on the release. “Strider’s Song” seems like it would either be in its instrumental form as an interlude on the debut full length from Phantom Castle or as a Lord of the Rings concept album.
I’ll put in a selfish request for a song about Phantom Castle’s mascot in the logo.
Expect The Black Rock & Heavy Metal interview with Halfden Svarti in September 2022 and be sure to check out Phantom Castle over on Bandcamp if you haven’t already. Also, follow Moor on Instagram if you dig treks through mysterious woods alongside some love of metal.
Staff Writer; M. Swift
This talented writer is also a podcast host, and comic book fan who loves all things old school. One may also find him on Twitter at; metalswift.