REVIEWS

GOTHTANICA – SJÄLAVALS. ECLECTICISM OF STYLES BY A SWEDISH MULTI-INSTRUMENTALIST

To begin with, I stumbled at the moment of listening to the album. I just couldn’t listen to the first two tracks, turning each one off after the first chorus with a slight feeling of secondhand embarrassment. Nevertheless, on the recommendation of the editors of ndhradio.online, I still gave a chance to an album of a project that was completely unfamiliar to me at that time. And then it turned out that the release, firstly, was not at all as bad as I thought, and secondly, I`ve got some thoughts that I would like to share.

So, Gothtanica, as it turned out, is the project of the Swedish musician Karl Johansson. Moreover, according to the description on the official web-sites of the band, Karl was 9 (!!!) years old when his father asked the kid to sing on some of the tracks that he wrote himself. This, by the way, can explain such a banal and at the same time pretentious name of the band (well, “Gothtanica”, really? Seriously?). Then the young talent was presented with his first synthesizer and all hell broke loose. An enthusiastic descendant of the Vikings plunged into his new hobby and as a result has already released… 9 or 10 albums (here the data differ; it is quite possible that Karl himself does not really remember the exact number of records he released). Well, ok, “Själavals” is Gothtanica`s 9th album. I don’t know about you, but it was a surprise for me. Of course, I did not immediately start to get acquainted with the entire catalog of Karl`s releases, focusing my attention on one specific work.

Johansson himself describes his style as Gothic/Industrial Metal. I won’t argue with that: indeed, elements of both styles are present on “Själavals”, having the significant influence of Symphonic/Power Metal as well. And it seems to me that despite the thick layer of electronics on the record, there are much more components of Power Metal than the ones of Gothic Metal.

In general, the album leaves pretty mixed feelings. On the one hand, I have never heard something of its own from the project – all ideas and delivery were borrowed from different bands, music styles and genres, like pieces of a puzzle. On the other hand, it is sometimes really organic, and sometimes completely mediocre. And here I will go back to the first two tracks, which almost made me completely dismiss the project. And the worst of them, which is called “The Fallout”, is at the very beginning of the track listing. So I found out that Karl has problems not only with the naming, but also with the choice of the order of the tracks on his records. Somewhere in the middle of the album, such banal power metal with absolutely weak clean vocals, perhaps, would have passed unnoticed, but it is, at least, a strange move to open the album with such a track.

And if a listener’s doubt creeps in: they say, it’s just an unsuccessful album opener – it happens, then the second track called “Crown of Desperation” already reinforces the belief that, apparently, it won’t be better. Yet another banal track, with a claim to some kind of brutality and energy, but it all sounds somehow strained and indistinct; , meanwhile clean vocals are still “beautiful”. And only a truly persistent and patient listener (apparently, this is the author’s idea) deserves to wait for something more interesting. The third track, “Blood Moon”, is much more pleasant to listen to. Moreover, I personally associate the chorus with the Blutengel band. I was even pleasantly surprised by this parallel. Here it turns out that Karl can still sing well. Yes, the guy does not have outstanding singing skills, but he can sound very sweet, which, well, you cannot tell after listening to the first two tracks.

We will not dwell on each song, so we`ll skip over “Smoke & Mirrors” and move on to one of the album`s main hits which is called “Behold My Creation”. This song was released by Gothtanica as a single, and after listening to it, I understood why many fans were really looking forward to the release of the record. I think “Behold My Creation” is what the Gothtanica should ideally be. A very successful eclecticism of genres: from Electro-industrial to Pop, from Metalcore to Power Metal, with a typical “bizzare-theater” atmosphere. A good combination and a great example of what the project should strive for. “One with the Nightmare” has got a similar atmosphere, but “Behold My Creation”, whatever one may say, is more successful. Then, the ballad called “Let me go” is followed by the entertaining track called “Breeder of Souls”, obviously inspired by Cradle of Filth. It turned out to be a funny combination of delivery in the style of Cradle of Filth and Power Metal. I won’t say that I liked the song, but it made me smile for sure. Next I would like to mention the track called “Altar”, which, in turn, reminded me of a combination of the styles of Deathstars and Avatar.

And so the whole album; some familiar music fragments are constantly heard in each track of the album and, like it or not, you compare them with the music of some other artists. It is similar to the concept of postmodernity, in which we create something new from what was created earlier. But I still think that Karl is just still searching for his own style. Yes, it would seem that with the release of the 9th album it is time to find it, but he started his music career so young and as a creative unit, evidently he is not yet mature enough. But one can see some glimpses, and perhaps, if he was not striving to release all his material at once, but used a more selective approach to the track-listing of his releases, then in a couple of years we would hear a truly mature, self-sufficient work. As for “Själavals”, I repeat, it is really not that bad and I will be happy to add some tracks to my playlist myself. But it looks more like a compilation of tracks from different years than a complete work, and besides that, it is rather tiresome if you listen to it from start to finish. Considering all this and the very weak opener of the record, I think that a fair estimate would be 6 out of 10, but I will remember the project, and I would be interested to hear how Karl will develop it further.


  • Band: Gothtanica
  • Album: Själavals
  • Genre: Gothic/Industrial Metal
  • Country: Sweden
  • Release: October 31, 2021
  • Facebook Page: facebook.com/GothtanicaSWE

Reviewer Score: 6 out of 10


Author: Irgend Jemand, specially for the NDH FM Online

Translated by Yuri Kudryavtsev.

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