Voyage to Desolation/Dawn of the End is the eleventh full-length album pumped out by Sweden’s Runemagick in ten years. It’s as if the band’s husband-and-wife team of Nicklas and Emma Rudolfsson makes records instead of babies. Of course, the cavalcade of down-tempo doom/death riffs on display here have been gestating since Mr. Rudolfsson heard his first Celtic Frost album. But it’s still impressive that a band that works at such a prolific pace can keep a steady lineup, let alone come up with an hour of music as inspired as Voyage to Desolation/Dawn of the End.
Runemagick are pious evangelists for the Church of the Riff. Even though much of Voyage is instrumental, its apocalyptic riffscapes are almost narrative in scope, making Rudolffson’s standard-issue death growl superfluous when it does appear. The band reaches the holy land in a variety of ways: “Voyage to Desolation” is introduced by an eerie thirty seconds of chanting and bells tolling, and “Volcano Throne” adds some atmospheric synths for girth and briefly moves into double-time hardcore. But every track eventually gets around to a meaty chug that’s so headbangable it’s hard to resist. Runemagick’s signature move: the triplet gallop, which ornaments “Chthonic Temple Smoke” and “Retaliation” like the trills of a Bach Invention.
There’s something charming about a band that aspires to nothing loftier than perfecting the art of the riff. On Voyage to Desolation/Dawn of the End, Runemagick get pretty damn close to that aspiration. Maybe one day, we’ll take Runemagick’s consistency for granted and wish they reached higher or took a little longer to release albums so we have a chance to miss ’em. Not yet, though. I’m already hopped up about album number twelve, which is no doubt already on its way to the pressing plant.