Anna Von Hausswolff is a small Swedish woman who sings blackened songs about death. “I’ll bury all my children/I’ll carry them to death,” she howls like a woeful, pallbearing specter in “Funeral for My Future Children” on her latest album, Ceremony. It’s actually a pretty upbeat pop tune—one of the few glimpses of light on the immense, shadow-cloaked record, which feels like an ancient candlelit wake. Makes sense, given that the record was written as an ode to the recent passing of her grandfather.
Hausswolff is an artist who eschews precedent. Critics are quick to compare her voice’s expressive quaver to Kate Bush’s, but Bush didn’t listen to quite as much drone metal as Hausswolff has. A self-professed fan of Earth, Swans, and Burzum, Hausswolff reinterprets metal’s emotional heft and dynamic long-form song structure into some pretty interesting, exciting pop.
To capture the primordial, gut-wrenching expansiveness that her metal muses eke out, Hausswolff gets legitimately medieval. Her songs don’t feature big Hiwatt amps, down-tuned guitars, or blast beats. Rather, Ceremony was written entirely on a church organ. Towering 32-foot pipes bellow bass notes that rumble deeper than any Sunn amp can. The instrument makes Hausswolff’s imagined funeral processions sound like actual proceedings—gothic songs of reverence written long, long ago.
The beauty in Hausswolff’s music lies in her ability to transport you to this timeworn setting. Taking great care to craft a distinct environment, the songwriter doesn’t even begin singing until 10 minutes into the album. Opening track “Epitaph of Theodor” is an instrumental organ dirge straight from the Middle Ages that bleeds seamlessly into the doom-laden crescendos of “Deathbed.” After plunging us deep into the darkness, the track builds until finally at its zenith, Hausswolff’s voice appears like a single ray of light.
If this all sounds too heavy and plodding, don’t be mistaken. These are hooky requiems. “Mountains Crave,”Ceremony ’s single, is one of the year’s best pop songs. An 808-inspired hip-hop beat clicked out on a cavernous-sounding tom is cleverly twisted into a fluttering, organ-driven sing-along for knights and nature spirits. With Noveller. Friday, December 13. The Vera Project, Warren Ave. N., 956-8372, theveraproject.com. 7:30 p.m. $11 ($10 w/club card). All ages.