The triumphant return of Sognametal is here, with the new album by legendary Vreid. Following in the spirit of originator Windir, the band freely creates their own brand of black metal, quite distinct from the overall Norwegian sound but also very much a part of it. ‘Lifehunger’ is the eight full-length of Vreid.
We also have to mention Ulcus, since the Sogndál metal network is small and cohesive. Their music shaped through the years into something more melodic and accessible, with war-themes. In fact, I sometimes have to think of Loits in that context as much as of Kalmah, but hey. I’m thinking out of the box here.
The melancholic intro of ‘Flowers & Blood’ promises much as an acoustic guitar casts a moonlit setting for this album. As a prelude, it opens up for ‘One Hundred Years’, which combines the penchant for the epic and melancholic that Enslaved and Opeth have perfected. The sound is tight and polished, with the occasional marching beat as displayed on the title track keeping everything as tight and organized as possible. In that sense, Vreid follows the trajectory of bands like Satyricon to a more vitalistic and rigid sound.
The vocals are particularly captive, sounding like a vicious snarl that bites and snaps at the listener with fury. Yet, on ‘Hello Darkness’, we have the big outsider track. Clean vocals and maybe even a little nod to the true masters of darkness Simon & Garfunkel here? It’s mellow vibe and acoustic parts are truly dark though and capturing a different kind of melancholy. The rest of the album kinda picks up the pace again with steady quality, catchy riffs and a razorsharp bit of songwriting. I don’t know if anyone ever thought Vreid was gone, but then they’re back with a vengeance with killer tracks like ‘Sokrates Must Die’.
The rockers Tempel from Norway are a band of brothers, literally. Espen Gjermundrød (guitarist), Inge Gjermundrød (bassist/vocalist), Kjetil Gjermundrød (drummer), along with their best friend Andreas Espolin Johnson (guitarist), create an eclectic mix of rock music from up north.
Their heritage is clear in the artwork, showing a wooden stave church as we know them well from Norway. This record is their debut and the identity and image the group brings across are immediately clear and tangible with this exceptional musical effort. All the way from Oslo, with their chest-thumping, t-shirt toting, balls to the wall heavy sounds! It appears no one has signed these guys yet, which is beyond me really.
Tempel instantly releases a barrage of rock’n’roll on ‘Vendetta’, with screaming, hardcore vocals. In the best tradition of Norwegian rock music, it kicks off with vitality and vigorous rhythms. At times their sound has a bit of that thick, black metal layeredness. but overall it’s big, Kvelertak and Skambankt-like waves of powerful rock music. The vocals are definitely the rougher edge this music needs to stand out from the masses, but the frantic drumming has a hand in that too (two hands, obviously).
Dense and fierce, the music never really lets down, but when you get that clear, all-piercing riff like on ‘Fortress’, it is as if the clouds are pierced. The phenomenal sound of Tempel is one I absolutely love. Ranging from bluesy riffs to rigid powerplay, Tempel blasts their way onto the scene with this excellent debut. It has all the catchiness of classic hardrock, but also the Norwegian ruggedness bands from their neck of the woods often produce. Surprising is therefor the emotional ‘Farewell, featuring Benedicte Edvardsen from Mowlith as guest vocalist. It only enhances the versatility this band has to offer on their debut record.
Eldamar is an atmospheric black metal project from Norway, with a sole member in its ranks. Mathias Hemmingby from Askim has a profound love for the fantastic, which is evident from the projects name (a reference to Tolkien’s elven realms). ‘A Dark Forgotten Past’ is the second album of the band.
This is the second full length for Eldamar, which has existed since 2015. The debut ‘The Force of the Ancient Land’ came out in 2016, so respect for unleashing the next work only a year later. Most of the music is generated on the computer and inspiration comes from the likes of Elderwind and HowardShore alike.
The sound of Eldamar lingers somewhere between dungeon synth and atmospheric black metal. The guitar riffs sound as tight as your most epic sword-guitar wielding power metal band. Due to the production all is rather polished, yet the atmosphere is vastly different. The grimy, abyssal vocals match up with clean, angelic singing. A broad spectrum of sound unfolds, with the mission of casting a spell you with magical, harmonious songs.
The melancholic chanting might remind you of the Lord of the Rings soundtracks or even some moments in the World of Warcraft lore. Its profound sadness works well in line with the steady blast beats and solid riffing. You journey to an otherworldly place with a song like ‘In Search of New Wisdom’. It’s as if the guitars and drums merely function as rhythmic devices. The synths dance their very own dance in harmony with the vocals. It works marvelously and after listening to this record for a while, I’m finding myself thinking of mighty mountain peaks, deep dwarven halls and fiery craters of doom.
In conclusion follows the particular highlight of the climactic ‘A New Understanding’, which closes the record. It completely swoops you up and carries you to the realms far, far removed from where you normally reside. Nothing quite sounds the same as Eldamar.
There’s no huge audience for folk music. Not when we start talking about real, authentic folk music. Sure, we’ll love a bit of Wardruna thanks to the epic Vikings series. The Hollywood experience leaves the music in itself is largely misunderstood though. That’s a massive shame because people miss out on groups that really bring it the way the gentlemen from Byrdi do on their latest album Ansur: Urkraft.
Byrdi has been around for a bit now and this is the follow-up to their debut album Eventyr. On this record, they go deeper though, more intimate and personally they approach heathen folk of the forgotten ages. Digging deep into northern history and mysticism, the group produces an album that really fascinates and tantalizes the listener on a primal level.
Though its title may be funny, the harmonious singing on ‘Blaanane blaa’ serves as a gateway into the realm where Byrdi operates. Tempered, tribal drumming comes up in the background. While minimal, it’s effect is so heavy with the rumbling in your gut. The music doesn’t need any heaviness or density. The full, warm sound and smooth production allow for an optimal expression with just simple instruments and vocals. Sometimes that can sound a bit more boisterous and manly, like ‘Myrpesten’. At other times they sound intimate and melancholic, like on the visceral ‘Celebrata’. The bass tones and eerie atmosphere takes you away.
One thing that I find surprising is how easily the mood and emotions change with the songs of Byrdi. The directness of the songs really goes straight to something inside you, tugging the heartstrings so to say and evoking images of more archetype-like experiences. The way the gentle guitar picking on ‘Ren’ focuses the attention is just magical. When the vocals come in, you’re already in a trance-like state mentally. Byrdi has made an album that puts you in the heart of the forest, in the shadow of mountains and the cold stream of a river. The magic that inspired our forefathers to make their earliest folk art and songs. This record is pure magic.
Label: Dark Essence Records Band: Slegest Origin: Norway
I found out about Slegest, thanks to the Cult Never Dies: The Megazine book by DayalPatterson. I read about the multi-instrumentalist Stig Ese Eliassen, who played in Vreid before. He now does Slegest, combinging ’70’s hardrock, thrash and black metal into a unique sound.
Like many people making extreme music, Eliassen is a guy with a history. A person with conflict and a need to expres that. This is where Slegest is born from and now growing into an entity that hopefully will play live soon. The lyrics are in Norwegian, but the sound had a universal quality to it I think. The album was received well so time to share it with the world.
Dirty black’n’roll from Norway
The cover is immediatelly different, catching the attention without being anything special. Then there’s the opening riff of ‘I fortida sitt lyss’. Catchy, driven and timeless, this is music that alway works. A little like the crustpunk albums of Darkthrone, catchy bit dirty. It’s an interesting contrast, the catchy music with the gritty vocals. That gives it a dark edge and a real rock’n’roll feel. It’s got that underground edge, but also a great mix and production. Slegest doesn’t rely on grimy distortion to cover up anything, it’s a band that really knows how to deliver a great tune.
Specially on a gloomy track like ‘komfortabelt nommen midtvekes’ the formula of Slegest works. With a wicked grin, you listen to the chugging riffwork, the playful guitar loops and the trollish (yes, I used that word) vocals. This record is great stuff to listen to in the car, the clean production, the energy, it all falls into place. Would this record benefit from clean vocals? I think it would lose it’s dark shine without, I enjoy the punky, raw but still slick sound. It really fits into the tradition somewhere between Skambankt and Abbath.
I love this album by Slegest, the dirty Norwegian biker sound should appeal to a broad audience. If Speedfest was still around, this is a band that should play there. This album totally rocks.
It’s a provocative title, this one. It suggest that the fire on earth has been stoked high enough so that the flames lick agains theaven, creating an uncomfortable heat in the otherwise serene halls of God. That is a fitting title for Nidingr, who are creating a great album steeped into the tradition of black metal.
Nidingr started out as a solo project for guitar payer Teloch, who is now active in Mayhem (the true Mayhem, before any confusion arises). He gathered musicians, that have played live in bands like God Seed, Myrkur and even Gorgoroth and Trelldom. That explains a connection to these fundamental black metal sounds.
Only singer Cpt. Estrella Grasa is a slightly less known figure in the scene and also in my opinion the odd bit in the sound of the band. His hoarse bark feels a bit too ‘hardcore punk’ at times and when he is simply speaking it hasn’t got that profundity. It does give a song like ‘Surtr’ a different dimension and makes it in whole a lot more accessible. The proclamation on ‘The Ballad of Hamther’ could be a bit more imposing, but hey.
The mythological titles and dissonant sound of the band makes for a rather spectacular sounding record. The turbulent ‘Sol Taker’ for example is a great, thunderous performance with vocals coming from the center of a maelstrom. ‘Ash Yggdrasil’ has some calm, beseeching voice luring the weary traveller in on the opening chords. That is no other than Garm from Ulver singing on a track that reminds me mostly of Mysteriis era Mayhem with the blaring, ugly riffing that pass by so slowly, without ever relenting the sound. Only later in the song, when only drum and chanted vocals remain there’s break, but the wavery guitars come up instantly when the song continues… but then slowly fades.
And again the band surprises with ‘Heimdalargaldr’. A bombastic, Behemoth-ian spectacle with big arches, arousing drums and powerful vocals, that appear to come from deep. It’s another aspect of the Nidinger sound, but in a remarkably powerful form. The high point of the album is yet to come though, with the arrival of ‘Naglfar is Loosed’. An epic song featuring the heavenly vocals of Myrkur to create an even grander, epic journey. It’s perhaps not far off to call it a dirge, lamenting the coming of Ragnarok. But what a way to go, aye?
Nidingr is surprisingly accesible on this album, a marriage of the vocals and classic black metal. Great record.
First of all, boasting of guest appearances of Obsidian C. (Keep of Kalessin) and Torstein Parelius (Manes), this instantly grabs attention. You’d almost think they’re just throwing names around, but there is absolutely no need for it. Khonsu has used prime musicians in the past, as a result of which their concept was made into a reality with the musical extravaganza that it requires.
Khonsu combines black metal, industrial and progressive elements and is a project of two musicians. S. Grønbech is the brother of Obsidian C. and worked on the well known Reclaim EP. T’sol has been active in various bands. Khonsu” means “traveller” or “pathfinder” and is a reference to an Egyptian deity. The sound of the group really feels like a futuristic take on black metal with a strong narrative element to it. It’s quite awesome.
The band achieves an eerie vibe through long passages of keys and samples. You can taste the influence of krautrock with soaring passages and those weightless keyboard moments that seem to linger. The riffing comes in short, controlled bursts, overall sounding extremely tight and interwoven with various effects to increase the progressive feeling and story of the record. Vocals vary from monotonous chanting to deep grunts and soaring moments of operatic ecstasy. You may deduce from this, that the album has plenty going for it, while holding definitely enough variation to keep the listener intrigued.
I dig the aggressive nature and awesome art work of this album . You can let your imagination run with it. The depiction in sound the band offers is futuristic, while sounding dystopian in a way. Perhaps that’s what the galaxy under the boot of the Empire feels like in StarWars. It’s grim and dark, much like a Warhammer 40K universe, but more clinical I suppose. You can feel the empty void that is space in their sound. It’s VNV Nation without hope, Dodheimsgard without the blasting fury and maybe even a connection to Fear Factory’s desolate stories of a post-industrial, post-World War III landscape.
I’m just throwing tome things out there, while The Xun Protectorate is a great album full of shifts in pace, theme and timbre. Short narrative intermezzo’s form the intro’s of songs or quick breaks in between. It’s music for metal fans and sci-fi lovers alike, making it a great record, with all the right elements.
Boy, what records to be found in the underground this time, with Downfall Of Nur, Skuggsjá, Cormorant and Fuath. Great music for great listening!
Downfall Of Nur – Umbras de Barbagia Avantgarde Music
Seldom have I heard music, blending folk and black metal, that feels so full of yearning for something lost as I did with Downfall Of Nur. The band is a one-man project by Sardinian musician Antonio Sanna, who moved to Argentina and there started making his music, inspired by the Nuragian society, which inhabited the island of Sardinia since the old days and still show some traces in the wild central parts of the island. So, the band is based in Argentinia where the young Sanna released a demo, an EP and this full lenght.
The music is a mixture of two styles, but balanced in such a way that you hardly feel the transfers from one to another. The production is phenomenal and the sound completely captures the forlorn spirit of its topic matter. The eerie screams of Sanna are haunting in the sometimes completely overwhelming waves of bleak, black metal. The special touch is the folk instruments, which start the album, but also help it to close of in a similar manner. This way the album becomes a unity, instead of a collection of seperate songs. It’s an absolute masterpiece, that combines the best of the atmospheric black metal bands of nowadays and folk music.
Skuggsjá – A Piece For Mind And Mirror Seasons Of Mist
The magical collaboration between Einar Selvik (Wardruna) and Ivar Björnson (Enslaved) was already succesful in its limited run of live shows. I had mixed feelings when it came to an album version of it, due to its temporary and unique nature, It was an event, a once in a lifetime thing, but now there’s an album. I have to retract any objections, because this is a music for the ages. With many collaborators on this piece of heathen heritage appraisal, it’s a work like no other. The Norwegians have tried to captivate its essence on this recording.
Though labeled as a blend of metal and folk, it feels more like a ritualistic bit of music. The changing of Selvik is combined with the riffing of Björnson en Grutle Kjellson. Mystical foggy fjörds are being painted with words and music. Through the mist of traditional instruments you journey into the Norway of a long forgotten past. It’s music that makes your heart pound, that makes you look at the stars with a new sense of wonder and embrace the forgotten past. The wide range of instruments comes together for something monumental and grand, but also dreamy and nostalgic for a time in the past. Thre’s hardly any true metal in the music, which is surprisingly not making it lack in power. It’s hard to really go into it, because it knows no equal. I’m for one very glad this music is available on vinyl now.
Fuath – I Fortriu Productions/Neuropa Records
I’ve had this record on my shortlist for reviewing for a while, but somehow dropped it for a while, due to its musical nature. The post black metal that praises the land of the Britons has often represented in my reviews so I let it simmer for a while. That did not diminish anything of the beauty that Fuath has to offer. Andy Marshall knows how to make this kind of music. The Scot was also responsible for the work of Saor, Falloch and various others. Where Saor and Falloch are mellow, representing the wide heathers and hills, the music of Fuath is more harsh, more overwhelming and seemingly more about the deep forest.
The name Fuath translates as ‘Hatred’ in Gaelic. That tells you quite a bit already. The sound is more streamlined than the previous efforts and relies on that stream to create an atmosphere of a misty forest and being lost in its foggy depths. It invites you in, takes you into its warm embrace. Only then you feel the eerie cold and the fury behind it all in icy riffs and cold, distant drumming. Vocals are howls, raw and filled with hatred, in the background. Ever seen that scene in the old BBC Robin Hood serious where Guy Of Gisborne runs scared through the haunted forest? This was the soundtrack of that bit.
Cormorant – Dwellings Self released
Yeah, this is something else. Cormorant is a black metal band that can trace its roots to the melodic and grandiose sounds of Emperor and Satyricon in the early days of the genre. Where the focus of bands is lately much on returning to its roots, like the Icelandic and Nidrosian scenes, this band returns to its mystic, fantastic origins. Think Bal-Sagoth, but without the cookie monster gutturals and and He-man like landscapes. The Bay Area band of Americans have released this album in 2011, but it crawled up on bandcamp for a bit and I had to check it out. I was amazed.
You think progressive usually takes a more agressive, extreme angle, but interestingly enough these San Francisco boys have taken it to a more traditional folk/heavy metal direction. More riffing, more soaring guitar parts and that galloping rhythm you’ll find in the power metal corner. Maybe even a bit of Iron Maiden? It creates a unique sounding band, that unites the cravings of angered D&D players with the need to stand bare-chested in a forest wearing corpse paint and wielding swords. It is not filled with hatred, but with longing for that other worldliness. On top of that, they do what they do in a magnificent manner. What an album! They did release a new one in 2014, but I’m most keen for more.