By Tate Bengtson
As symphonic black metal flowered in Norway during the mid-90s, Kvist released a single album before quickly and quietly disappearing from the stage. While this lack of support would prove detrimental to the popularity of this album at the time of its release in 1996, it has allowed Kvist to enjoy a cult-like respectability that many of its contemporaries, such as Dimmu Borgir and Satyricon, would soon squander. As goes the old adage: dead heroes can do no wrong. Of course, the issue at hand is precisely how heroic Kvist truly is once the rose-coloured glasses of retrospection are cast aside.
For Kunsten Maa Vi Evig Vike is very much a product of its time, but it is a product that is not discoloured by the bitter taste of symphonic black metal’s subsequent indulgences. What Kvist brings to the table is quite simple: balance. Kvist’s use of keyboards is understated and not particularly elaborate. In this, the band went against the prevailing wind of the day, which was pointing towards the bombastic (Dimmu Borgir) and the classical (Emperor and related bands such as Tartaros). Instead, the trollish vocals and the pattering drums stand at the fore of the mix, with the guitars and keys twined together in the midground. Tremelo-picked, distorted guitars are the name of the game, although there are a few more substantial riffs which offer contrast. Kvist is at its best when it varies the tempo, as exemplified by the tour de force closer, “Vettenetter.” This skill is deployed at select points throughout the album, as heard around 2:30 of the second track (perhaps one of the most intriguing passages on the album, with all instruments temporarily falling away except for the bass and drums) and the barnstorming opener, “Ars Manifestia.”
Alas, the success of these passages exposes the flaw that runs through much of For Kunsten Maa Vi Evig Vike: too often, Kvist settles into an unremarkable flurry of tremelo picking and double kicking. Problematically, the tracks which suffer most from this issue are located smack-dab in the middle of the album, which makes the travelling time that it takes to arrive at the magnificent closer all-the-more arduous. Third track “Stupet” is a seven minute exercise in tedium. Fourth track “Svartedal” is thankfully much shorter, but no less dull despite its slightly more ornate synthesizer work. The fifth track is a rambling, pompous, and ultimately pointless ten-minute tirade that races through forgettable fast sections in order to arrive at dull slow parts where the band tries its hand at more complex symphonic passages. The hamfisted result suggests that Kvist’s aforementioned balanced restraint was due more to musical limitations than discerning taste, only the band usually had the good sense to play to its capabilities.
Even at its best, there is nothing brilliant about this album. It occasionally impresses. It occasionally disappoints. But, more often than not, it is little more than an innocuous and nondescript take on a well-trodden genre. It is a fine middle-of-the-road example of symphonic black metal that, due to the short existence of the band, can be disassociated from the dubious creative choices that the scene leaders would soon adopt.
Originally released on Avantgarde Music in 1996, this reissue by Peaceville brings For Kunsten Maa Vi Evig Vike back into print. However, it offers nothing by way of bonus tracks, photographs, lyrics, or even liner notes that might testify to this album’s historical significance. This is a shame; it would have made sense to include the band’s 1994 demo at the very least, thus enabling this reissue to capture the entirety of Kvist’s known recorded output. For those who already own this album, there is little reason to pick up the reissue. For those with a deep yearning for pre-suck Norwegian symphonic black metal who are not already acquainted with Kvist, this is worthy of further investigation provided expectations are managed accordingly.