Black metal has always been about individualism and not being "one of the sheep, " yet more and more albums seem to be coming out of the woodwork with the obligatory forest scene artwork, indecipherable band name, buzzing lo-fi guitars and tortured screams. Sweden's Bergraven -- aka sole band member and multi-instrumentalist Par Gustaffssons -- has shunned such cliches to make some of the most evolved, compelling and expressive extreme music we've heard in a while. In a sea of misanthropic music makers, Bergraven stands alone as a band that truly adheres to the black metal ideology. Ironically, Par rejects the black metal tag entirely.

"I consider black metal to be a Satanic musical expression and since I am not a Satanist I can't consider my music to be black metal. The feeling of a present evil and darkness is very inspirational to write about, but I see other things around me that make me feel a Satanic conviction is not right for me," Par told Noisecreep.

"To listen to the music of Bergraven with only black metal in mind would be to misplace the focus. I also think that the progressive side of me would not allow the music to stay within just one genre. Still it's no secret that many of the bands I listened to the most while I was starting this thing out come from a black metal origin, but I am also sure that the fact that I listened to the early music of Queen as a child (and still do!) has had a major impact on me as a musician and a poet."

Bergraven's latest record, 'Till Makabert Väsen,' twists and turns through different moods and atmospheres, with clean guitars cascading into distorted dissonance. And while a firm grasp of the Swedish language might be necessary to understand the lyrics, it's pretty clear that the subject matter is decidedly dark. Par explained, "This is really hard to explain but I want this album to be looked upon from two angles. One being a description of the things in my mind and surroundings that I find macabre and repulsive. The definition of those two words is very personal and has to be taken from the listener's own perspective and experiences and therefore there could never be just one explanation of the complete meaning behind the album. And two, I want this album to be used to encourage some kind of valuation of one's surroundings and the reflections one might have towards odd and partially unknown things in nature. To use this album, this noise, to evoke feelings of strangeness and uncertainty could be a goal from my side. The meaning behind a certain song will never be revealed because of the things said above."

With the music of Bergraven firmly planted in the macabre, repulsive and otherwise melancholy side of life, it would be safe to assume that Par is only happy when he is sad. But that is an ill-conceived notion. "Melancholy is a necessity in my life I've learned, but it would never exist without all the happy moments I have," said Par. "They come and go and I am in a way happy for the diverse feelings I have towards life. As any normal human being I want to live my life happy but I don't believe any emotions to be true without their absolute opposite. The lyrics I have written for Bergraven are very focused on negative and dark sides of life but I will be no different from any other creative person and say that it is my way of dealing with all this, to be able to handle it and go forward with being happy in my life. Melancholy does not need to be something depressive I think. I see it more as a feeling of redemption and closely connected to the well known 'blue' state of mind."