Overflowing with creativity and musicianship, today we have Enslaved’s latest opus “E”. Delivering over 45 minutes superbly catchy Progressive Black/Viking Metal, the band continues to refine their explosive sound with a few new tweaks and a whole lot of energy. Just when you think the band can’t get any better, they manage to push the envelope and perfectly balance their old-school elements within the confines of their more modern endeavors.
The album opens with a very light and to a point Post-Rockish vibe on “Storm Son”. This slowly evolves into more Progressive and Enslaved-like territories with dual vocal arrangements, catchy riffs and tight drum patterns. This opener is quite effective as it nicely bridges the band’s last release “In Times”, with what is coming in “E”. The headbanging continues with the extreme catchiness of “The River’s Mouth”, a piece that is quite interesting as the clean vocals remind us a bit of Fear Factory and create a unique contrast.
Only a few bands manage to write a follow-up to a legendary album and succeed at it. Today we have Vintersorg blowing people away with their follow-up of the seminal “Till fjälls”. In this double release, the band unleashes over 75 minutes of classic Vintersorg music that will never leave your record player for the remainder of the year (possibly a few years). Going back to the basics, this is one release you can’t miss.
The album sets the tone with the intense opener “Jökelväktaren”, filled with soaring vocal arrangements and uber catchy guitar work, this perfectly sets the mood for what is to come. For any fan of Vintersorg, the brilliant combination of epic clean vocals and harsh vocals is one of the best features of their releases, particularly in epic tracks like “En väldig isvidds karga dräkt” and the crushing “Fjällets mäktiga mur”.
Delivering over 55 minutes of superbly catchy Black/Pagan/Viking Metal, today we have France’s Vindland and their debut full-length release “Hanter Savet”. With the current influx of brilliant French bands to the Metal scene, it is not surprising that this band is a good as they are. Perfectly capturing the essence of bands like Kampfar, Windir, Thyrfing, this band has managed to craft nine excellent songs that will have you headbanging from start to end.
Opening with some great intensity, “Orin Kozh” immediately sets the pace for quite a hectic and yet melodic release. The band perfectly weaves back and forth between full-on Metal sections and more subtle Folk-ish influences. The incisive riffing is exactly what makes this release quite melodic and enjoyable, similar to what one would expect from the genre. Tracks like “Treuzwelus”, “Serr-Noz” and “Pedenn Koll” really showcase how the band excels in writing cunning songs that are quite enjoyable and satisfying.
Featuring Crister Olsson and Daniel Bryntse of Isole, Ereb Altor delivers a Viking infused Epic Doom Metal that is very distinctive and enjoyable in nature. As the band’s fifth full-length release, “Nattram” shows great maturity for the band and clearly showcases the well-polished chops this group of musicians has developed over the years.
After a warm-up instrumental, the band brings forth their best Epic Doom Metal skills with the intoxicating “Midsommarblot”. Just imagine Tyr-meets-Candlemass and this is something similar to what you will get with this highly atmospheric and melodic piece. In terms of headbanging, “Nattramn” is the perfect piece to do this with its crushing harsh vocals and killer drumming. We greatly enjoy that the band moves from a heavy song into a more melodic and Epic one in a nearly seamless fashion as we can see with the transition to another epic anthem titled “The Dance of Elves”.
Delivering their first album on their new label, Metal Blade Records, Faroese Metalheads Týr keep improving on their signature sound with “Valkyrja”. Featuring 13 tracks of super catchy Progressive Viking/Pagan Metal, the band shows no signs of resting in their laurels and manages to build on their legacy with a near perfect release that will captivate all fans of the band. For over 59 minutes, the listener will be treated to Týr’s signature riffing and the charismatic singing of Heri Joensen.
Opening with the strong “Blood Of Heroes” we get the traditional Týr riffing onslaught provided by Heri Joensen and Terji Skibenæs. With more epic vocal melodies and catchy arrangements, “Mare of My Night” comes out to be one of the standout tracks in this release thanks to that headbanging/chanting alongside vibe the song features. Things get more melancholic with the lush female vocals of guest Liv Kristine on “The Lay of Our Love”. In this track the band shows a different side to them, delivering a mellow track with excellent guitars and very tight drumming.
After a four year absence, now we get the second release in the same amount of years from Vintersorg. “Orkan” continues the same predictable and highly typical path that Vintersorg has taken, providing just very few flashes of brilliant, and a whole lot more of the same. If you are a die-hard Vintersorg fan this release will be sweet music to your ears, but if you have been annoyed by the lack of creativity of the last release, then you will surely not like this one either.
The traditional Vintersorg vocal melodies nicely adorn the opener “Istid”. Here, the combination of growls and clean vocals are very well layered at first, and then used to near perfection as we are all used to, in bands like Borknagar and everything else that Vintersorg has been involved in. The fancy synth work is very typical and the riffing is as powerful as always. The progressive elements in the music make it quite enjoyable to hear, particularly on tracks like “Polarnatten”, “Myren”, and “Orkan”. The playfulness of “Myren” is something that we had missed from the band in the last release. We have to say that this is our favorite song in this release, and the only one we really liked too.
What do you get when you mix Falkenbach with Moonsorrow and Candlemass? Ereb Altor is the answer. Mixing Viking Metal elements with some Doom, this Swedish band has been constantly releasing albums since 2008 with a few tweaks in-between but nothing really revolutionary. In “Gastrike”, the band delivers seven tracks of catchy guitar-driven tunes that ultimately feel a bit repetitive and quite dull in some points.
Leading with the atmospheric opening section to “The Gathering of Witches”, Ereb Altor nicely transitions into some power riffs and typical Viking Metal elements bordering on the Black Metal side of things. There is a rawness to the band’s sound that is quite nice, but sometimes makes the music feel a bit convoluted. “Dance of Darkness” moves a bit into Doom territory, but the guitars nicely shift back and forth between Black Metal and Doom Metal.
Continuing on the concept brought forth on “As Yggdrasil Trembles”, Unleashed delivers their every two years release with “Odalheim”. As one of the forefathers of Viking Metal, Unleashed keeps bringing it every time they release an album and with the high-intensity of “Odalheim” they keep maintaining their aggressive-yet-melodic brand of DM that many bands wish they could play.
Blasting through their opener “Fimbulwinter”, this release is off to a great start with fast riffing, blistering drumming and the always effective vocals of Hedlund. The riffing courtesy of the band’s longstanding guitarists Anders Schultz and Tomas Olsson nicely switches band from high-powered Viking Metal sections and some barebones DM chugs. It is very surprising to see that the band has not had any line-up changes in years and it shows in the overall quality and tightness of their music.
After reviewing what felt like thousands of uninspired Viking/Folk Metal releases in 2011, we now find ourselves wondering where these kinds of albums are in 2012. After the disappointing latest release of Eluveitie, it is Heidevolk’s turn on the hot seat. “Batavi” marks the band’s fourth full-length release and it shows great maturity from the band in terms of songwriting, but not too much in terms of diversity.
Using almost no ‘fancy’ Folk instruments, the band relies on powerful and catchy guitar riffs to carve their own sound. While we would have immediately discarded this album if we heard a fucking hurdy gurdy, but Heidevolk delivers a very well-targeted riffing assault that will appeal to fans of bands like Tyr, Falkenbach and Moonsorrow. For over 39 minutes, “Batavi” delivers very traditional and ‘simple’ songs that are pretty solid due to their catchiness.
With the current world filled with countless releases that sound very much alike, Nordheim makes their contribution in that category with their Folk/Viking Metal release “Lost in the North”. Don’t get us wrong, the band does a good job in making high-intensity, well-crafted music, but they lack the creativity to actually have a sound of their own.
Featuring a mash-up of Thyrfying, Turisas, Moonsorrow, Tyr, etc, the band has a very intense sound that pounds through 10 tracks with excellently executed instrumentation, but this is as far as it goes. The choir-like structures are very typical, the keyboards are very typical, the screams are also very typical, even the basic melodies of the songs are just the same we have heard back. Yes, we agree that the band is very aggressive and has a high-intensity approach to the genre, but this has also been already done.