It’s no secret that Sweden and metal go together like bread and butter, and when it comes to specifically death metal, as the influence of the genre began to spread, many of its most significant bands hailed from the Scandinavian nation, including Carnage, Entombed, Dismember, Unleashed and others. Less known, however, is the relationship between the Swedes and crust punk, with prominent Swedish D-beat outfits, such as Mob 47 and Crude SS, acting as catalysts for the genre’s development. Indeed, as death metal began to grow in popularity in Sweden, crust punk developed alongside it, with certain bands, like Skitsystem, bridging the gap between these two styles of extreme music ever so slightly. Therefore, when discovering the existence of the band Henry Kane, a Swedish act with a foot in both their home nation’s regional death metal and crust punk idioms, I thought I had a good idea of what I might be in store for. Consisting solely of Jonny Pettersson of Wombbath fame, Henry Kane is a new undertaking for the multi-instrumentalist that does indeed display clear roots in traditional Swedish death metal and crust punk, as well as grindcore and its associated derivative forms. This being said, the first thing that strikes the listener when putting on this new album from the project, Den Förstörda Människans Rike, is that, regardless of what you may think of the music, the sound and general atmosphere created by Pettersson is unequivocally unique. Indeed, influences from various styles and particular artists can be heard on this album, but the end product can never quite be pinned down to any one catalyst. When you first go into this album, the most outstanding feature that will hit you right away is the guitar, which has a tone so muddy, so lo-fi and so noisy that it’s almost imperceptible when things pick up. Whilst this wall-of-sound guitar tone, presumably created with some sort of modulation effect, may turn some people off this project at first, I recommend persevering with it for a few listens, because although I was deterred by it initially, on subsequent listens I began to appreciate not simply how individual it sounds, but how well it complements Henry Kane’s approach to death metal, with this guitar sound making for one of the crustiest crust punk aesthetics I have heard in a long time. Indeed, the guitar is so audacious and bizarre that it often feels like the centrepiece of much of Den Förstörda Människans Rike, but there is more that contributes to Henry Kane’s recognisable sound than just this. The production on this album is as bassy and distorted as the guitar tone, which, at the album’s loudest climaxes, creates a grumbling wall of dirty ambience that is louder and more disorientating than anything I’ve heard on a metal album in quite some time. Pettersson’s vocal performances too retain a distinct hue to them, pulling elements from vocal deliveries typical of both death metal and crust punk, with the end product often being as crazy as it is punishing. Ultimately, all these quirks come together to create an unmistakeable sound associated with the Henry Kane name, which is enough in itself for me to hold a significant deal of respect for this album. Then again, whenever I’m presented with an album with as distinctive an atmosphere as that featured on Den Förstörda Människans Rike, I’m often left concerned as to whether or not the material provides substance beyond just its superficial quirks, as having a unique sound is all well and good for when the listener’s experiencing the album, but if there’s a lack of meaningful groundwork to these compositions, then there arises a risk that there is little to make the listener want to revisit the record. Thankfully, however, Den Förstörda Människans Rike, whilst largely discernible as a result of such a stand-alone sound, comes through with enough substance to make this album a highly memorable experience in terms of metal releases thus far in 2017.
A word of warning for those who plan to listen to this album; if you’re wearing headphones, make sure the volume is at a reasonable level before playing. I don’t mean this as a joke; Den Förstörda Människans Rike is really so abhorrently loud that prolonged exposure to this record at high volumes could surely cause some damage . What’s more, if you have your headphone volume too high when you start this thing, the opening track, En Själ Till Salu, will show you no mercy. The track opens almost in medias res, with little in the form of a formal introduction, rather the listener is greeted by the hellish guitar tone right from the onset, as it plays in time with some accented crashes before barging into a barrage of blastbeats, as Pettersson’s maniacal vocals wail over the top. The raw energy of a hardcore punk band is met with the guttural intensity of a death metal band, but then the brutally fast sections are evocative of grindcore, whilst there’s also a D-beat-style breakdown on this track. Indeed, for a song that falls just short of two and a half minutes, there really is a lot going on here. In this regard, it is incredibly successful as an introductory track, in that it perfectly conveys the modus operandi of Henry Kane on Den Förstörda Människans Rike. This album blisters through track after track of uncompromising, cacophonous chaos, and it must be said that the length of the songs on here is very much so in keeping with its grindcore-inspired aesthetic, with the majority of its tracks clocking in at below two minutes. Whilst many of these songs adhere to a similar blueprint, there are a few stand-out moments that incorporate some more diverse influences. En Grav Av Ångest, for instance, is incredibly sludgy and seems to lie somewhere between D-beat and doom metal, and the sole two tracks on the album that exceed four minutes demonstrate Pettersson’s ability to incorporate some more elaborate textures into these compositions. The title-track, for instance, features some duelling clean guitars during the introduction, providing the first real breather from the incessant musical anarchy that dominates much of this record. Of course, this doesn’t last long, and even whilst these guitars are running through some gentle licks, there’s a droning roar of distortion lurking in the background, awaiting for the walls of muddy noise to force themselves back into the mix. The length of this track allows Pettersson to more thoroughly expand on some of his ideas, with the song progressing well and incorporating some effective instrumental flourishes that aid in its development. Det Var Inte Ditt Fel is the other track to exceed four minutes, and it too makes very good use of its longer duration. The opening riff on this track also evokes a doom metal vibe, which is made all the more punishing by the dirty, bassy guitar tone, and is elevated to another level of forcefulness when the blastbeats kick in. The ensuing passages seamlessly flow between hardcore punk and death metal, whilst maintaining a continuously high-octane ferocity that roots all these styles in the unique foundation that Pettersson has laid on this album.
Ultimately, Den Förstörda Människans Rike is a Swedeath record with a significant twist and an incredibly unique sound to it, and such an interesting aesthetic is followed through with some great songwriting and solid performances. What’s more, the sheer ferocity achieved by the punishing walls of noise on this album is truly flooring, and as a result, even though not all metal fans will fall in love with this record, it’s hard to deny the spectacle that it is amongst contemporary Swedish metal and punk music. This being said, whilst I am certain Henry Kane’s sound is not for all metal fans, I would strongly recommend giving Den Förstörda Människans Rike several listens, as it really is quite the slowburner, or it was for me, at least. Even after I had started coming round to this record, I nevertheless felt it was somewhat one-dimensional, but yet further listens changed this opinion, and I now realise that there’s more substance here than I initially acknowledged. All in all, Henry Kane’s twisted marriage of death metal and crust punk takes a dilapidated form on Den Förstörda Människans Rike that is hard to compare to any other metal artist, which is enough to garner some significant respect for this album. What’s even more impressive, however, is how well this album succeeds on fronts other than simply its distinct atmosphere, establishing Henry Kane as an act that is worth keeping an eye on into the future.
The Vinyl Verdict: 8/10