Susperia, Predominance (Nuclear Blast): One of the almost innumerable good things about the Scandinavian heavy-metal scene is the giant middle finger it waves in the face of the new world economy and its unforeseen consequence, the near-death of regionalism. When we all took up residence in the big happy global village (where, curiously, we all drink the same brands of soda pop and wear the same shoes), an early casualty was one of the neater perks of advanced music geekhood — while 10 or 15 years ago it took some deep knowledge to keep track of regional scenes around the world, that world's size is reduced. Gone is the privilege of being able to expound on the differences between, say, the Laotian garage-rock scene and the Indonesian psych-scuzz groundswell; the joy of finding out that Mudhoney is genuinely huge in Japan is no more. What's big is big now, no matter where you go. No matter, I mean, until you go to Scandinavia, where heavy metal sells like hotcakes after church. Susperia are a new Norwegian black-metal band featuring Tjodalv, the ex-drummer of black-metal powerhouse Dimmu Borgir, and their first album's called Predominance. It is magnificently brutal. Unlike death metal, which is almost all low-end until you get to the guitar solos, black metal favors lots of scratchy AM-radio-broadcast-from-the-underworld high-end sounds, and Susperia dish out generous helpings of shrieks from Satan's mountain cabin. Their minor-key guitar melodies, roaring breakneck atop a constantly exploding drum kit, are actually rather sophisticated; on different instruments, they'd bear more than a passing resemblance to be-bop. The few discernible snatches of lyric are harvested from the same field where Alice Cooper found the power to scare the crap out of us all when we were little kids. Take the raw-throat howl in the album's blurred-vision opener, "I Am Pain," which breaks suddenly into lucidity to threaten "Legendary suffering you shall see!" It's thrilling to hear a band firing on all cylinders as loudly as Susperia does here; it makes you wish they were popular. And then you remember that in their corner of the world, they're actually doing quite well for themselves, and that the Huns-on-horses gallop through hell of the album's high point, "Of Hate We Breed," actually has a chance of seeing chart action on their home turf. And you smile to yourself while the music frightens your cat. It is enough to warm a jaded obscurantist's cold, cold heart. — John Darnielle

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