Helheim – Landawarijar (Dark Essence / Karisma Records 2017)

This is my first introduction to Heilheims studio work, I’ve seen them live a few times. I met the guys several times and hung out at the record shop owned and operated by V’gandr before it went out of business. He turned me on to a lot of cool old bands I’d never heard of, it’s a shame it went out of business.

Landawrijar is in style similar to the better known viking metalers in Enslaved, which I absolute love. My reason for checking out Landawrijar was a recommendation by a fellow Enslaved fan. Just as with Enslaved I find this music soothing in a weird sort of way. Helheim has solid foot in the black metal camp, but the varied vocals let them go further then black metal usually does. Lyrically this has the Viking vibe that I’ve always associated with the band, the Norwegian lyrics are somewhat on the predictable / clichéd side of the fence, but they work great. I’ve no idea how these words sound to the rest of the world, but as a native speaker of the language, I’m impressed by the diction and how easy it is to understand what he is singing.

Like a lot of other extreme metal acts, Helheim is quite progressive. They combine harsh, fast headbanging music, with melodic interludes, clean vocals and super heavy grooves. Rista Blodørn is a feast for the ears, it combines classic black metal, with an almost industrial sounding, pounding rhythm, before it brakes down to half tempo and a beautiful, yet haunting, melodic guitar interlude ensues. The song then grips again when the full band returns and builds the tune back to a furious anger.

The title track is another amazing composition; quite complex and shifting between thrashing intensity and morbid beauty. The guitar work is mind-blowing on this track. It might be a bit lot and could have been trimmed just little, but it doesn’t seem repetitive at all. Enda-dagr is an apocalyptic song, and thus is well fitting as an album closer.

I find it hard to find the words to do the music justice. The landscape is dark and bleak, like classic Immortal, the vocals is at some points reminiscent of early days Dimmu Borgir, with a kind of Now Diabolical / Volcano –era Satyricon twist, at other points nice and melodic, yet others are raw and punky; quite a show of impressive vocal skill. The guitar work is not always impressive, but it’s never boring. Sometimes less is more. I haven’t really noticed neither the bass nor the drums.

As with most of the releases by Dark Essence / Karisma Records the sound is cold and crisp and … I’ll say complex, in lack of a better term. It’s nice, let’s just keep it at that.

The album works great as a unit, I recommend to listen to all the tracks in sequence. If you have to choose, I’d pick Rista Blodørn or Enda-Dagr  or both.

Rating 4/5

Gojira – Magma (Roadrunner Records 2016)

This album is just beautiful, both visually and musically. Gojira has chosen the path of many of their contemporaries in sludge / death metal segment, and are headed towards are more progressive sound. This record is heading in the direction of Enslaved or, to some degree, Opeth.

They’ve kept a lot of their heaviness, but added much to the melodic side of their sound. The soundscape is still similar to the earlier material, with a heavy bottom and a lot of going on in the background. And overall the sound is as atmospheric as ever. The sound is layered with a heavy bass and drum sound in the bottom layer, crushing guitars in the middle section and lighter top from lead guitars and vocals. Even when the harsher vocals turn up, it still has a softer feel then earlier material.

Silvera has sneaky intro and continues into an almost Meshuggah-ish riffing. This style of riffing is prevalent on other songs as well, stranded for one.

The album is really cohesive in that songs end and slide into each other, which makes for a seamless listening experience. The record doesn’t have any real single-tracks; they all sort of belong together. If I had to pull out a couple of songs I guess I would choose the title track, Low Lands and Liberation.

Magma, the track, has that certain sound and feel which I like in Gojira: Big variety in intensity, creative arrangement and great lyrics. Low Lands  is a haven of heavy and melodic riffs and turns into a beautiful soft outro. Liberation is Gojira at their most melodic and experimental. Usually they have experienced with atmospheric sounds, but this is more of a melodic and rhythmic song. It’s a great ending to a great album.

I like that they keep the songs rather short, and don’t feel the need to push the ten minute mark on every song, and keep it around five minutes. I wish they would let even more rules behind, because they’re still quite bound by metals dogmas. Gojira deserve to be much bigger than they are. Even though this album is beautiful in almost every way, I don’t think this is the kind of album that brakes through to the kid crowds.

 

Recommended tracks: Magma, Low Lands

Rating: 4,5 / 5

Vektor – Terminal Redux (Earache 2016)

How talented are these guys? This is some complicated music. There is so much going on, that it’s a bit much for my taste. I really enjoyed Outer Isolation for its creativity and solid songwriting. This time around I’m not, totally, onboard however.

 

Although this is musically very varied and progressive, the sound doesn’t change at all. The horrible vocals sound horrible throughout the entire thing. The vocals are so bad that I didn’t make it through the entire record the first time I listened to it. The fact that the guitars too has the same shitty sound for most of the album, also casts a dark shadow on the entire thing.

 

There are probably some good tunes on here, but the sound is gruesome. I just can’t listen to it in its entirety and it ruins the whole experience for me. I think of an album as an entity, it must work together. It should fit together and ebb and flow. So it doesn’t work as an album.

 

I have listened to the tracks individually and must say that it’s nowhere near as good as Outer Isolation. I enjoy Mountains Above the Sun, amazing guitar work is still amazing, even if it sounds terrible.

 

I’m not a huge fan of ten minutes plus songs from almost any band, and this certainly goes for Vektor as well.The last track, Recharging the Void, starts off brilliantly, but doesn’t go anywhere and seems endless and repetitive towards the latter part. Cygnus Terminal is the best track of the album, it is laden with riffs. Massively heavy and progressive, and a fun listen.

 

I’ll mention one more track, Collaps. Why on earth would they put this shit on here? The song is horrible in comparison with the rest of the album. Terminal Redux has more than enough of material, why would you put on a song that is leagues below the standard of the rest of the music. It’s just … horrible and piss poor.

 

I’ve mixed feeling about this album. I can’t stand the sound and the production. To me the sound is so awful that it makes it impossible to listen to this as an album. On the other hand, as stand alone tracks, I really enjoy the music. Hmmm
Recommended tracks: Cygnus Terminal

Rating: 2,5/5

Abbath – Abbath (Season of Mist 2016)

I’ll just admit it right of the bat; Abbath is not, has never been or will never be in my top 50 of vocalists. Immortal has never  really interested me, sure I’ve seen them live more than a couple of times and their music was everywhere in my student life, but I’ve never procured an Immortal album. Still I consider myself rather well versed in Immortal music.

Abbaths sound the same as he always did, like a demonic frog type of croak, which works perfectly well for his original material. It gives a certain feeling of darkness and cold, desolation and evil …. Yeah, I’ll go for desolation and evil … anyway, you can really hear his styles limitation on the priest cover Riding on the Wind, which just sounds ridiculous.

Opening track, To War!, is an instant foot tapper and I’m into this album on the first spin, right from the first second of music. The main riff is incredibly catchy, but the song sort of looses momentum when the vocals kick in. I my opinion Abbaths music is at it’s best when he plays the groovy riffs, the rock n roll stuff. Black metal has never been my favorite style of metal, I find it unimaginative and repetitive, especially the blast beat stuff. I love the energy in a live setting, but on a record, it gets tedious.

Fenrir Hunts is a really cool mix of thrash, black metal and rock n roll, only thwarted by Abbaths singing. He really shouldn’t sing, but stick to his evil croak. Eternal  is a another good example of the Abbaths ability for mixing grooves with brutal riffs.

If you are able to, get the bonus tracks! The cover of Judas Priest classic Riding on the Wind is just a laugh riot, unintentionally maybe, but still. I was kind of only half listening, having music on in the background while working, I got it my head that Abbath sang; “Yes, I’m burning, burning underwear” instead of the actual lyrics “yes, I’m riding, riding on the wind”. Now I can’t help it, I just hear burning underwear every time I listen to the song.

All in all, I like this album. It’s not a classic or a must have, but it’s definitely solid release. It’s going to stay in regular rotation on my player.

 

Recommended tracks: To War! Fenrir Hunts

Rating: 3,5 / 5

 

 

Sulphur – Omens of Doom (Dark Essens 2016)

Being a Norwegian metalhead, you are kind of bound to be exposed to certain amount of black metal. Personally I rarely find any pleasure in the genre. I’m into melody and understandable vocals. There is a few bands that pull of both of these things, without compromising the brutality. Sulphur is one of those bands.

I must say that I thought this band had split up, since the main songwriter has been busy with Vulture Industries and that nothing has been hard from the band since 2010. I was pleased to hear that the style is pretty much the same now as on Thorns in Existence from 2009.

From the first note you can hear some the similarities between Øyvind Madsens two bands, he has a unique guitar tone and chooses some weird scales and chords when he makes music. This is one of the main reasons Sulphur stands out from the pack of Norwegian black metal. The chord progression, notes and scales are weird, and keeps the music fresh and interesting.

The opening tracks The Force of Our Fall has great lyrics, and an amazing addictive vocal line. The Devils Pyre is the most powerful, and the one with greatest guitar work. The standout track is, without a doubt Alt Svartner. The song is sinister and dark, and at times so so unbelievably heavy.

Recommended tracks: Alt Svartner

Ondt Blod – Finnmark (2015)

I’m doing a short shout out for the Norwegian band Ondt Blod,  a lyrical translation of their name would be Evil Blood, I guess, a better translation might be Bad Blood. Their first full length album was released in the fall of 2015 and it fucking rules! The most apparent comparison is with Kvelertak, as they sing in Norwegian and in the fact that shamelessly flip from genre to genre. Ondt Blod has their roots in more of a punk / hardcore sound, where Kvelertak might be considered more rooted in metal.

The songs are quite short, around three minutes, and filled to the rim with energy and attitude. My personal favorite track is Kompis med Satan (Buddies with Satan) which has a hardcore vibe going from the get go and then suddenly transforms into a doomy gloomy middle section, with some rather ominous vocals.

I also like Symbola (Symbols) which has like almost a boogie woogie part as well as some punk parts and Gjengtegn (gang tags) which mixes a little black metal into the hardcore. This album is just crazy good, absolutely brilliant. It’s just fast, fun, hard hitting, head banging mixture of everything hard, fast and heavy.

Highly recommended!!!!!!!!!!!!

Enslaved – In Times

I’m not sure where to begin with this album. I guess I may start with the fact that it’s a tad better than Riitiiir, but also quite similar, so much so that it could be Riitiiir part 2. The sound and feel of the music is in the same style Enslaved have been sporting since the brilliant ISA album.

 

They have kept the feel of extreme metal with razor sharp guitar, pounding bass and complete with blast beats and all. Grutles angry, rasping vocals is a staple of their sound as well. I’d like to give props to the his vocal technique, not a lot of metal singers can match his gruffness and still keep the diction understandable. A lot of people sacrifice lyrics for power, especially in the harder sides of metal.

 

The songwriting is the main reason why Enslaved are among the top acts in metal today. The songs are intelligent, progressive, melodic, brutal and, at times, beautiful. They move and flow in natural ways, without sounding predictable but rather …. familiar. Different riffs and parts build on one another, and gives the music a natural sound, just listened to the opener Thurisaz Dreaming and feel how it all fits together. Enslaved has become a kind of lay back form of extreme metal. Even their harder parts have this laid back feel and seems more mellow and somehow more comfortable than other metal / rock of the same ilk.

 

This album is rimmed with progressive turns and hooks. Time signatures change subtly, but effectively. The combination av the gruff, black metal style vocals, and the clean vocals is still working well. The clean vocals can be a bit bland at times, but works well as a mood setter, the prime example beeing One Thousand Years of Rain. It is this combination of the light and dark that works. I would guess that any one of them on it’s own would be quite tiresome.

 

The cover art has been pulled back and are simpler than the previous albums. The labels are white with a “one line drawing”. It’s super effective and beautiful. The down to earth artwork reflects the music perfectly. Sailing towards the rising sun is a truly beautiful view and is a metaphor for returning home in norse mythology, which plays right into Enslaveds returning viking/norse theme.


Recommended downloads: Nauthir Bleeding, One Thousand Years of Rain, Thurisaz Dreaming