this is difficult to put into words, in the sense of a humble attempt to verbalise the feel of standing in awe, the feeling of divine presence. “facilis descensus averni” is truly a monumental work in black metal artistry. it is beautifully simple and pure. this might very probably be where decades of black metal composition has led to. this might be what ulver wanted to do with “nattens madrigal”, had it not been a project with strict guidelines but an expression of how black metal feels.
and through those decades we have seen numerous (attempted) resurgences of the “pure / nordic black metal” formula, among the experimentation of the majority. this is perfection rather than a resurgence.
facilis descensus averni is victorious in every aspect. first we have the exquisite tremolo, laying the foundation, the melody and the atmosphere. each song has one or two main themes, bridged perfectly by recurring / alternating passages. the main themes are so simple and beautiful yet so haunting you find yourself humming / whistling a random one long after the album ends. despite the vast amount of tremolo / chord built melodies, i would not classify the music as “melodic black metal”, though. also, we are treated by a very natural and a thick atmosphere of despair. yet, not “atmospheric black metal”. we always imagine the swiss alps as serene and astonishing. oh, by the way hån is swiss. but here they are as grim, cold and dark as the mountains of bergen. and there is an inherent, heavy and glooming sorrowful overall feeling that would put most dsbm bands or any in-your-face despair inducing post-black to shame, and certainly not any of these.
under the awe inspiring tremolo and gritty guitar work (complemented in slower passages by acoustic guitars) lays an astoundingly solid rhythm section. the tempo drops and picks up where it needs, without vying for shock with unexpected tempo changes that would ruin the structure. when it drops, as it does to funeral black metal crawl as in the intro of the closer “summum bonum”, you are served the sweetest anguish. and when blast beats pour, and they do, you feel the fury and energy. whether you have the doom, the blast beat or mid-to-high tempo double drums (aplenty) or the attacks, they are executed so proficiently yet so human-like, also thanks to the organic drum sound. a separate mention goes to bass though, bringing rhythm and melody together, also creating its own. as artistic and melodic the vocals are, there is a perfect balance of instrumental parts and singing. as it may be the case with some releases where the vocalist doesn’t get a break, too much singing may ruin the music. not here, as the human voice complements the structure and accentuates the feeling. as audible as each piece of instrument, thanks to lucky mixing and production choices. although, i occasionally suspect that i hear piano chords. maybe it’s a mind trick. it would be nice, though.
an instant classic, a masterpiece on its own, but i childishly and selfishly feel it may be longer. maybe 42 minutes is just “perfect”, as the whole album seems to be, in every aspect.