When a black metal album opens up with the sound of a wailing saxophone, you know that you're probably in for a unique ride - and, in almost every way, that's exactly what Livsgnist is. This, the debut album from Norwegian black metal act So Much For Nothing, is a diverse and exciting record that, while still borrowing from plenty of black metal's trademark qualities, isn't afraid to try some new things. This observation spans, in addition to black metal, influences from post-rock, progressive metal, and even touches of jazz instrumentation will be heard throughout the album. Livsgnist is a rather ambitious record that manages to incorporate many new ideas into black metal, while still maintaining all of the dark atmospherics that the genre is known for. Its appeal to purists may be limited, but this is an excellent purchase for everyone else.
The foundation for So Much For Nothing's music is in depressive black metal (in other words, there won't be very many blast beats or furious tremolo picking on this album), but the band doesn't stick to the conventions of the genre very often. Somewhat similarly to their fellow Scandinavians in Shining, So Much For Nothing does take the genre and run with it - the music on Livsgnist is very polished and well-produced, and there are enough progressive overtones to stand out from the rest of the crowd. Listening to a song like "Suffer In Silence", especially during the disturbing and downright beautiful acoustic middle section, brings Shining to mind, and while I would never label So Much For Nothing as a clone, their music should certainly appeal to fans of the aforementioned 'suicidal' black metal act.
Livsgnist is a stunning debut in virtually every regard, and this is a highly recommended album for any fan of forward-thinking and progressive black metal. So Much For Nothing offers a platter of black metal that not only sounds haunting, beautiful, and skillfully composed, but also quite original. This is a real winner in my book, and I have no hesitation in saying that this is one of 2012's biggest highlights thus far. A truly excellent album, and a very recommendable purchase for fans of Shining, Opeth, and Enslaved.