(8/10) In 2015 Bergen-based metal Vikings Enslaved embarked on a trip to The Netherlands. The purpose for this trip was the bands participation at Roadburn 2015 and even more – Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson curated this years festival edition.
The band performed twice, with the concert that was recorded for this release featuring the show on April 11th, 2015. "Roadburn Live" is by the way the first live album that Enslaved released up till now and stands for another highlight in the band's rich musical history. The guys from Norway played eight songs that night, each of them paying attention to the newer material of the band. Special highlight, next to the awesome tunes, is the guest appearances. No less than Waldruna’s Einar " Kvitrafn" Selvikfor “Daylight”, as well as Aðalbjörn Tryggvason from Sólstafir and Per Wiberg added some part to the total with their involvement leading to an extra when it comes to expression and intensity. Selvikfor also did some vocals on “Convoys to Nothingness” and in the end of the gig Enslaved included a cover song which was as also done with a guest. Led Zeppelin’s classic rock masterpiece “Immigrant Song” was performed as the closer of this show, supported by Focus’ Menno Gootjes. It's the first time ever that Enslaved recorded a cover version and we can conclude that the experiment worked out well. All these highlights are captured on this vinyl version that was released on record store day in conjunction with this years Roadburn festival.
The limited vinyl version came as gatefold with two golden records. Maybe ‘golden’ is a bit of a big word since it’s more a kind of yellowish beige rather then a shining gold color. However, that doesn’t limit the joy of listening to each of these eight songs after having hung up the A3 poster as additional wall decoration. This album contains great songs that have been performed in a special scenery - all in front of enthusiastic fans. And the fact that Jens Bogren did that mastering with Iver Sandøy doing the mix means aso a perfect sound level when it comes to live recording. "Roadburn Live" is a very-well done release that's exciting for fans and rookies
Label: By Norse Music/Roadburn Records
Genre: Progressive Viking Metal
Release Date EU (Vinyl limited edition): April 22nd, 2017
Release Date EU (CD): May 19th, 2017
(8/10) Finnish Viking metal unit Wolfheart comes wit their third longplayer, continuing their journey through Finnish mythology and harsh metal. The debut from 2013, which was re-released in 2014 by Spinefarm, brought Tuomas Saukonnen and his gang into the spotlight. The sophomore “Shadow World” strengthened Wolfheart’s heartbeat and it’s the third record that has the task to anchor the band in the world of Viking metal.
“Tyhjyys” is the title of an album that starts with “Shores of the Lake Simpele”, followed by seven more songs. The beginning of track number one is silent and acoustic with a sinister vibe that’s included in this first part of the track. Things get harsher along the way with a very melodic guitar line, introducing the listener to the world of “Tyhjyys”.
“Boneyard” begins more bombastic and evolves to a raging songs reflecting the rawness of Northern nature in an excellent way. Things get even bigger with “World on Fire”. Wolfheart combines orchestral elements with fragile piano parts, all embedded in a dark and blackened metal context.
After such a cold storm it’s “The Flood” that comes with a constant interplay of loud and soft which makes the song to a real Viking metal anthem. There is no real downer on this album. The songs, being selected for this album, are all sphereful death metal tracks that are all rooted in rough Northern nature.
Wolfheart’s third longplayer combines Viking metal, death metal and a lot of Finnish mythodology to an exciting and entertaining total that keeps your fingers far away from the ‘Skip’-button. This record has a lot to offer and shows that Northern darkness also has its beautiful side.
Label: Spinefarm Records
Genre: Viking Metal
Release Date EU: March 3rd, 2017
(*/10) Most of you know Amorphis excellent “Under the Red Cloud” album, which is so far their latest studio longplayer. I don’t spend many words on this release because I strongly assume that you heard the album already. For the ones of you reading this review without knowing ‘Under the Red Cloud” I can just advice the check it out. It’s worth it.
However, there is a tendency these days to release longplayers with a special goodie a few month after the original release date – often labeled as ‘tour editions’. Sometimes there’s a question of ‘why’ these re-releases take place but in Amorphis’ case things are pretty clear. Fans get an extra that is worth to listen to and worth the investment.
This edition comes with an extra disc that’s called “An Evening With Friends @ Juhlaviiko – Huvila”. It contains the recording of a concert the band did in August 2016. The show was part of the Helsinki-festival in the Huvila, which is a big tent in the centre of the Finnish capitol. The band felt very honored of having the chance to perform at the festival and they wanted to make this night to something special.
One of the things that made it to an extraordinary moment have been guest, being invited by the band to share the stage with the band. Anneke van Giersbergen was part of this memorable concert as well as Sakari Kukko and Pekko Käppi, both enriching Amorphis classics with their different musical background. Flute and saxophone are instruments that aren’t associated with the Finnish metal icons. But after having heard the album with these new interpretations I must say that it fits very well. Amorphis songs naturally come with an intensity, which gets an extra layer on this album.
My personal favorite on this live album comes at the end. “Her Alone”, originally part of “Silent Waters” , is performed as a duet. Tomi Joutsen and Anneke Van Giersbergen lift this song to a level that speaks for itself. It’s an emotional moment that is moving, with the saxophone solo as being the icing o0n the cake. This version of “her Alone, a song that was rarely performed over the last years is a great closure of an extra disc that not only collectors should call their own. This stuff is epic.
This edition of Amorphis’ 12th longplayer makes sense, showing the band from a slightly different angle, which fits very well. A beautiful live recording of a unique concert, done by one of Finland’s best metal bands.
CD 1"Under the Red Cloud":
CD2 "An Evening With Friends @ Juhlaviiko – Huvila':
Label: Nuclear Blast
Genre: Heavy Metal
Release Date EU: February 23rd, 2017
(9/10) This Enslaved release is new and old - all in one. "The Sleeping Gods - Thorn" features seven songs that are from from 2010/2011. The tunes have been released earlier via two extremely limited EP's, a period between “Axioma Ethica Odini” and “Riitiir”.
"Heimvegen", the opener, starts melodic and reminds more of classic rock, something that changes after a while when the tune move towards an blackened piece of music, mainly driven by some evil vocals of Grutle Kjellson. Talking about the vocals, the lyrics are partly in English, Norwegian and Old Norse which emphasizes the the theme of mythology and the esoteric side of runes.
The most brutal song is Alu Misyrki" which stand for five minutes of dark Norwegian black metal. The counterpart comes next. "Synthesis" is a dark instrumental that spreads, with all the electronica, a gothic vibe and eerie vibe with some spoken words that intensify this atmosphere even more.
"The Sleeping Gods" has with its drum beat has almost a Norse folk expression before Enslaved drifts again away in gloomy spheres with "Disintegrator".
"The Sleeping Gods - Thorn" is a realease that bridges the waiting time till a new Enslaved album hits the shelfs. It contains excellent songs of a band that combines black metal with progressive song structures and a lot of atmosphere. This longplayer is the soundtrack for dark November days.
Label: By Norse Music
Genre: Progressive Black Metal
Release Date EU: November 11th, 2016
(8/10) It's not that easy to describe Borknagar's sound. Of course you could say that we are talking about viking metal, but I think that this wouldn't cover the entire range of sounds that are coming together on a Borknagar album.
"Winter Thrice" is the newest longplayer of the Bergen-based band and it can easily take it up with the predecessors. "Winter Thrice" is Borknagar's tenth album in their so far twenty years long lasting career and it's doubtless one of the best ones too.
Eight songs with epical length provides you with an almost 60 minutes long fireworks of metal that you can't escape from.
The Norwegian soul comes back in each of the songs. Especially the folk elements contribute to this a lot, but also the pathos and emotionalism that comes with each of the numbers makes the album to more than just another metal record. "Winter Thrice" gives you a chance to dive into soundscapes that are filled with the mentioned folk elements, nagging black metal eruptions, blastbeats, clean melodic vocals lines, progressive song structures and pathetic storytelling.
Borknagar's newest longplayer is far more than 'just' another black metal based viking metal album. It merges Pink Floyd inspired soundscapes with blastbeats like in the epical "Terminus", it has melancholic moments ("Panorama") and combines melodies with harsh black metal attacks. All this can be found back on one album and all fits together. By all diversity "Winter Thrice" is a homogenous masterpiece that tells a story with different shades.
Interesting enough is the fact that the shortest tune is the most silent one too. "Noctilucent" is a straight number with clean vocals, representing the more 'sunny' side of Bergen.
"Winter Thrice" became the expected longplayer that puts a spell on the listener. Great soundscapes meet dark black metal outbursts. And it is this felt contradiction which creates the tension that makes this Borknagar album that thrilling. "Winter Thrice" makes Borknagar playing in the same league as Amorphis and the earlier Opeth.
Label: Century Media
Genre: Viking Metal
Release Date EU: January 22nd, 2016
(6/10) German pagan band Varg have a new EP release ready to be published. After all the controverial discussions (and I will open this box again) during the last years the band is working on a new album called "Das Ende aller Lügen" and the current EP is an appetizer to bridge the waiting time.
The title track is called "Rotkäpchen 2015" which is German for 'Red Riding Hood'. The song is a pure pagan metal beast with a big portion of folk. Next to the title track itself the EP offers you also an English-, an Norwegian-, the 2011 original-, a Bierzelt- and a karaoke version. That's a lot of 'Rotkäppchen' on one disc.
Furthermore you will get two new songs. "Ein Tag wie heute" and "Abendrot" are harsh viking metal tracks, built on a heavy riffing and screeching vocal by Seiler.
Pagan metal doesn't belong to my favorite metal styles and also "Rotkäppchen" will not change this. But fans of Varg will enjoy this EP and don't have to hesitate buying it. For all the others I would say: Not bad but also no milestone.
Label: Naplam Records
Genre: Pagan Metal
Release date EU: October 9th, 2015
(7/10) The waves break on the beach, some acostic guitar sounds take over and orchestra samples join in - the introduction to the new Einherjer album couldn't fit better. The percussion sound gives the rhythm for the rowing viking ship that comes across the ocean. What a start.
As one of the dinosaurs of viking metal Einherjer is around already since quite some years. The Norwegian guys started already mid of the ninties and released their debut in 1995. After a longer break the band returned in 2011 with "Norrøn". Now, three years later, the next album is ready. "Av oss, for oss" is the name of the silver disc that contains eight songs.
The tracks are based on the Norse heritage. It's adventures, craftsmen and poets that inspred the trio. And all is coming back in their songs. There are the melodies that could have been written by the poets, there is the power that is crucial for the craftsmen and the self-confidence of the adventurer that come back in each of the viking anthems from Einherjer.
What I like with their music are the rough vocals of Frode Glesnes and the simple but effective song structure which brings each of the tracks right to the point. My personal highlight on the album is "Nidstong" - a track that lives from almost endless repetitions making the song almost hypnotical.
What I think is a bit of a downer with "Av oss, for oss" is the fact that the songs sound very similar. Einherjer doesn't really leave their general pattern. Each song itself is a good one, but since it is too much of the same the music loses the attractivness. It seems that the vikings are just cruising in the Baltic Sea. But in reality they also have been the first ones in North America. This ambition of discovering new worlds would have been also benefitial for "Av oss, for oss".
However, a good album with a mystical expression and avoidance of too much (troll-) cliches. Heritage inspired authentic viking metal, played rough and mean. A solid album with hopefully a few more experiments next time.
Label: Indie Recordings
Genre: Viking Metal
(8/10) 'Never change a winning team' seems to be the motto of King Of Asgard. Two yeards after the bands latest release "...to North" the quartet from Mjölby, Sweden released their new record called "Karg". Like the last time it was again Andy LaRocque in the Sonic Train Studios who gave the band an excellent sound.
Compared to the predecessor the new songs are more to the point again. While "...to North" came with some more melodic parts the new album picks up the more basic roots again. "Karg" which means "Barren" in English is a very well chosen name of the album. King Of Asgard ditched unnecessary weight and focussed on the essence of viking metal. The result are nine epical tracks which are dark and harsh.
"Remanant of the past" is a song which reflects the before mentioned very well. It's a slower track that transports a massive atmosphere. From choral sections up to pure bass lines the songs contains everything needed for a cool metal anthem. "Omma" with its seven minutes reflects the epical side of King Of Asgard. Starting with a piano the guitar takes over after 30 seconds and the riff shmashes everything that's in its way. Another track I really like is "The trickster". The tune comes with an hypnotic rhythm section and an enormous groove. It's the aggressive simplicity in the song which I like. "Huldran" foloows the same pattern.
The closer "Total destruction" is the last aural assault. The name of the song says it all. The track is a pushing forward metal inferno which rounds off a 45 minutes long journey through Northern mythology.
When it comes to the lyrics nothing changed. The Swedish guys still write about northern legends and tales. Literally you could say that the story continues.
"Karg" is a cool viking metal album which deserves to be listened to by everybody who is interested in well performed and hand-crafted metal. Check it out.
Label: Metal Blade
Genre: Viking Metal
(8/10) Dolk, Ole, Jon and Ask Ty did it again. Eventhough 'again' is not totally right, since guitarist Ole is stil fairly new in the band. They release a new Kampfar album end of January and it seems that guys gave the band also new impulses. By the way - the name of the new album is "Djevelmakt". If my Norwegian is good enough it stands for 'devil power' (if I'm wrong here please add the right translation in the comments). "Djevelmakt" was recorded party in rainy Bergen, Norway and partly in Párlby, Sweden.
Starting with pure black metal in the early days the band included more elements to their sound. Kampfar combines black metal with pagan metal and traditional Norwegian folk influences. This makes the songs actually pretty much timeless.
The new disc is number 6 in the bands discography and it became a cool one. In total the album contains 8 songs with a total playing time of 48 minutes.
The songs are quite different for black metal, but as mentioned, Kampfar is more than that. There is for example the slow and partly almost doomy "Swarm Norvegicus". A really cool track with a good melody, eventhough it is without saying quite heavy. "Our hounds, our legion", the only song with an English title, is a 7 minutes epos with well chosen breaks. The opener "Mylder" has everything you expect from Kampfar. A strong riff, a good melodic part, blastbeats and brawly vocal, combined with some almost clean vocal parts. What a range within one song. Another song to mention is the almost hypnotic hammering "Kujon" - a mean seven minutes long trip intp darkness.
All in all "Djevelmakt" is a recommendable album, even if you're not a big black metal fan.
Label: Indie Recordings
Genre: Black Metal / Pagan Metal
(5/10) German pagan/viking metal band Black Messiah are back with their newest release called “Heimweh”, the German word for ‘homesick’. The title of the new album shows already that the ‘Ruhr vikings’ have chosen for the first time in their entire career to go for a German name. “Heimweh” follows the 2012 release “The final journey”. Black Messiah is an experienced band. They are already in business since 1992, have already six records in their discography and have been o tour several times.
After I have listened to the album several times I have to admit that I still have mixed feelings. I think, that the songs are quite good when it comes to the instrumental part. It’s an interesting mix between black metal elements, some classic metal parts and folk influences. What I have a problem with are the vocals. There are parts with good vocal lines like in the beginning of “Edmund von Ostanglien”. I guess they are also sung by Zagan and it shows his potential. What strikes me is the more screechy parts. For me there is too less variation in the vocals and it becomes easily monotonous. Another song to mention is “Wildsau”. This is a pretty interesting song since it differs from the other tracks. It sounds more like a punk version of a Dropkick Murphys song. Next to the good music the vocals sound pretty cool here. But in this songs, as well as in the other ones, I’m irritated by the German lyrics. But that’s maybe only me.
Germany is not really famous for pagan/viking metal and I’m afraid that “Heimweh” will not change this. Unfortunately I never got connected to the album and it’s just not my thing.
Label: AFM Records
Genre: Pagan Metal