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Having two fantastic albums in your discography and being known for your participation in one of the most successful black metal bands ever, it must have been tough for Allegiance members to compose and record another killer slab of their viking themed black metal. But maybe I'm completely wrong, maybe all that experience, which Bogge and Friedrik had, worked on them positively and "Vrede" could have been the easiest of all Allegiance works? I don't know, the truth is though that even though it's another great album, I also must say that it's probably one, which I like least of all three full lengths that those Swedes have unleashed. Let’s say it’s still killer and great, but not as much as the other two are.
The resemblance to Marduk's "Nightwing" album in the opening song "I Som Drogens Hart Med Döden" is striking at first, as the furiously fast riffs and the way Friedrik plays his drums are totally like "Of Hell's Fire" or "Slay the Nazarene", luckily later on the song turns into slightly slower and more melodic one, but these parts are usually only a short break before another cannonade of devastating rhythms begin. One would argue whether there's any point playing something exactly the same in two bands - as I remind you that Bogge and Friedrik were playing in both Marduk and Allegiance at that time - but let me explain that the rest of "Vrede" differs from Marduk much more than you would think.
With the third song, "I Stjärnornas Skugga" the music turns into something else, it slows down a lot (although "I Stjärnornas Skugga" still has some sections of unbelievably fast playing), it's relatively mid paced and with the keyboards and such type of riffing as it has, it actually may almost remind you Dimmu Borgir's "Stormblast" for instance and some other Norwegian bands like Enslaved, but I'm not going to take this as an disadvantage, as the song is actually really cool, more melodic and mellow yes, but also suitably aggressive. "Hrodvitners Rike" and "Baldersbalet" successfully continue this way of playing and I must say that despite liking these three songs, I started to worry that "Vrede" will be too slow, much more melodic and epic than its predecessors and not so ultimately fast (although "Baldersbalet" has very fast middle part). When the beginning of "Nordens Fäder" turns into even more epic playing I knew that I shouldn't be expecting the killer machine like "Blodörnsoffer" was. I must honestly say that when I've heard some parts of "Nordens Fäder", like that melody in the second minute, well... I was kind of shocked that Allegiance lost so much of their power and aggression. I didn't expect this to come.
What’s more, almost 70% of the album is like that… There is basically just one, totally fast and neckbreaking track, which will really remind you Marduk a lot and which is a real blasts from hell. All the rest of "Vrede" is slow paced, more melodic and much more quiet, sometimes these songs have some keyboards added, but mostly these melodic parts are focused on twin guitar playing - honestly, when I've listened to "Hedna stal (Hymn till Nordens hjältar)" I swear that the first thing that came to my mind, when hearing the riff in the fifth minute was "damn, these guys have taken also some influences from Iron fuckin Iron Maiden!". At times the music becomes dangerously harmonic and "nice" he, he, just listen to the ending bits of the song I just mentioned... All these totally melodic guitar leads in it have very progressive touch, don't you think? All in all, I think that this is the most experimental track in Allegiance history so far, in many places reminding me Enslaved strongly, as both viking bands have developed this progressive touch in the music (in Allegiance case, it's mostly this one song though, not the whole album) and when you hear "Skymning", which closes the album, well... you start to realise that Allegiance really turned into slightly different kind of band than they used to be, as this closing track is a wonderful, very harmonic instrumental, based on dreamy keyboard parts and again with pleasant solo on guitar.
So, as you can see "Vrede" is definitely the most varied, but also the slowest and most melodic of all three Allegiance albums. I can say that some of the parts of this album have really surprised me, some positively, some maybe more negatively, but anyway the surprise was enormous. But all that doesn't mean this album is bad. No, I still enjoyed listening to it and definitely it's an essential CD to be in the Swedish black metal collection, remember though that personally I liked the previous albums more and I wish also "Vrede" was a bit more vicious and relentless, as it lost quite a lot of the aggression the band had on first two LPs. But maybe it's actually better to record something different than putting three exactly the same albums?
Best song: "I Som Drogens Hart Med Döden", "Baldersbalet", "Nordens Fäder", "Hedna stal (Hymn till Nordens hjältar)"
After a menacing sounding keyboard-intro culminating in a short spoken threat directed at christianity, ‘Vrede’ (swedish for ‘wrath’) starts off very fast and aggressive. When hearing the first minutes of this album, one expects it to be raging War Black Metal in the vein of ‘Nightwing’ or ‘Panzerdivision Marduk’ (‘Vrede’ was recorded between these two albums, and two out of the three Allegiance members were also part of Marduk at that time). But no, that is not the case. After the first couple of tracks, the blast-beats become fewer and the music gradually slows down and becomes more melodic. Towards its middle, this album has turned into mid-tempo Viking Metal with a strong nordic mood. By its end then, it further evolves in the direction of epic Progressive Metal (second half of ‘Hedna stål’), before finishing with ‘Skymning’, which is kind of an instrumental Progressive Rock-outro consisting of atmospheric keyboards, bass, acoustics and soulful guitar-solos.
This transition from furious Black Metal towards calm Progressive Metal/Rock is what makes this album so unique. Don’t get me wrong, ‘Vrede’ is certainly not a soft album, in contrary, much of it, especially in its first half, is as violent as you could wish it to be. The vocals always stay grim and hateful throughout the whole album, and they are well performed. There are no clean vocals. But instead of focusing solely on brutality (there are more than enough Viking/Black Metal albums released which do that, and some good ones too – check out the first In battle album), risking to be one-dimensional and/or boring; the music on ‘Vrede’ is varied and interesting, representing diverse moods. Allegiance combine excellent musicianship with mature songwriting, and they competently master the different styles present on ‘Vrede’. This is no crossover Metal, the passages from one genre to another are floating, and they always fit and sound natural. It never seems forced, like so many other bands that mix styles tend to do.
The sound is typical swedish. ‘Vrede’ was recorded at Abyss Studio and mixed by Peter Tägtgren - you get the idea.. The leadguitar-work is outstanding, and the bass, clearly audible in the mix, is used as an instrument of its own, not only following the main guitar-riffs, but playing independent patterns.
‘Vrede’ offers the perfect mix of aggression and atmosphere, which is just what an accomplished Viking Black Metal Album should; and if you are interested in this genre, I can only strongly advise you to get it.