Arvet ("Scars") is a Finnish solo-project that plays occult and esoteric black metal. The entity was born in 2005, and made two shorter releases and took part on "Suomesta Saatanalle"-compilation LP before recording the debut full-lenght "Aijna." On this album, Arvet consists of the founder and main member Noxifer, as well as three session members from Saturnian Mist, two of whom also produced the album.

Despite the guitars employing a really raw and crunchy distortion, the songs don't sound overtly hostile or lo-fi; more on the contrary, they create a steady mid-pace flow of energy and devout atmospheres. The guitars rely on repetition of short riffs (or patterns) that vary their pitch to retain from monotony, and they switch between faster tremolos, slower short melodies and lenghty echoed notes in order to create a soundscape you can sink to. The guitars have a good amount of texture, and the bass guitar and bass drums deepen them further through a similar formula of repetition, simplisticity and variation. The bass has a pleasing pulse which is employed in the compositions to a decent degree, whereas the drums sound highly organic but less powerful so that they can amplify the fast bits and create some motion, but doing so without stealing the spotlight from the guitars.

The songs vary a lot, but together create a very solid entity. For example, the song four opens with an ominous fast bit, but later succumbs into more melancholis spheres. A lot of the songs have transitions like this, most likely to signify a change in their lyrical delivery, and to make the songs more suitable for their multi-dimensional content. There are more traditional bits, too, such as the fast opening of "Samaelin Temppeli," but even it takes a turn for more spiritual atmospheres in the end. The echoed shouts, aggressive shrieks and chants by the main vocalist add the context from which the songs draw their nature, and they eat a slight amount of the guitars' excess rawness along with the bass guitar. Noxifer does vocals on tracks four and eight, and his raw and tormented shrieks serve as a pleasing additional element, and keep the listener from becoming too used to the actual main vocals. All the vocals tend to be rather back in the mix, so that they can't steal too much attention from the lead riffs and atmospheres. This choice gives the riffs more room to operate, but also make the songs less likely to stick to your mind even after numerous listens.

Although the music by itself emits an aura of dedication, both musically and spiritually, the lyrics reveal an even deeper side to the band's approach. The Finnish lyrics deal with creation and destruction, birth and death, and explore many ways and aspects of spiritual (and religious) self-development and evolution. Traditional satanic imagery comes seamlessly together with alchemical processes aiming towards englightment, as well as Hindu beliefs - the best example being Kali, the god of destruction and creation in one body. Chakras are also explored (such as "Ajna," of course), as well as the goddess and entity Shakti. I am not an expert in these subjects, but the lyrics surely grabbed my intention and made me study to further understand the band's themes and philosophy. As if the lyrics weren't enough, the booklet holds a lot of symbols and a few paintings (made by Noxifer) to deepen the atmosphere and give a visual side to the lyrics. It all looks pretty good on the surface-level as well, so I can only compliment the band for a job well done. It's always a pleasure to be subjected to such an amount of concentrated effort and dedication.

In the end of paragraph three I mentioned that the songs aren't likely to stick to your mind, and it's the main thing that confuses me with this album; I'm not sure whether it's meant to be so distant from its listener, remaining something that you proceed towards but cannot quite grasp, or is it something unintended. Be it how it may, but the truth is that Arvet is not yet fully refined; the people know how to create a strong basic formula, but weren't yet able to amplify its power to the furthermost extent. The riffs are mostly good, the atmosphere is good, and the vocal work coats it all fittingly; it just isn't enough. The album should have more choices and bits out of the ordinary (such as the percussion- and chime-backed "Hunnuton"), and the soundscape could have more personality as well. The album leaves a good aftertaste, but doesn't make an impact powerful enough.

Still, my guess is that the album is meant to be this way; it begins, it goes forward, it ends, and does not self-willingly approach the listener or try to woo him/her to enjoy it. "Aijna" is highly atmospheric and dedicated Black Metal for those who are willing to seek and to really give time to the album.

8½ / 10