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I would rather be honest and admit right away that the so called Viking metal is simply not my favourite thing. Sure, there are maybe two or three bands, which I will always admire – and they’re Bathory obviously (but with albums number four to six!! I’m not so much into last Quorthon’s works), then Enslaved (from all their LPs!), Helheim (all!), also Windir… and that’s it. I can of course mention also quite few bands like Thyrfing, Manegarm, Moonsorrow, Falkenbach, Finntroll, which are good, I may even have and like some albums of theirs, but not so many and not so obsessively. And also Einherjer in amongst them. I suppose that the main problem with many bands from this style is that their music tends to be too soft, too “happy” hehe, with these humpa – humpa rhythms that want to take you to a dance around a fire rather than force maniacal headbanging and go berserk! I hate all that “take a horn of ale and sing along” shit! I prefer if the music is aggressive, but monumental and epic. It can be melodic, but must have dark, majestic atmosphere. Unfortunately many of the bands I mentioned go different way, like Finntroll for example, who released several albums, which I just can’t listen to at all. Einherjer is also one of those bands, which have better but also some worse albums. And they also suffer for the “too melodic / too catchy” syndrome. And they had it ever since the debut album “Dragons of the North”, which I am going to try to review now.
But with this album it’s rather weird thing that despite being what it is, “Dragons of the North” is still able to catch my attention. I don’t know… there’s something intriguing in this material, what makes me like it even if it’s almost against my usual musical preferences. Or maybe it’s just a fact that Einherjer wrote simply good songs for their debut. One thing is certain – since these beginnings, this band sounded pretty original, with their unique way of playing riffs, which also forced a specific rhythms and drumming, incorporating melodies, keyboards, etc into the songs and finally the vocals of Rune Bjelland are also not so common. So, despite sounding like a music played by some drunken, merry Viking people, “Dragons of the North” is still not bad at all.
So, I grab that damn cup of ale (sorry, no horns in my home, what a poser I am!), get drunk and sing along with Einherjer their happy hymns. Why do I even like this album? I mean, it sounds so infantile, so simple… But it has some good, memorable songs, filled with catchy, folky melodies / riffs, some acoustic parts, keyboards, but they’re epic and monumental enough. Really, each song from the album has these infectious parts what makes them utterly memorable and next time you play “Dragons of the North” you realize that you start to sing with the band hehe! I am not saying that I like all songs or that the album is flawless, because it is not! But such songs like “Dragons of the North” (with nice Bathory feeling), “Dreamstorm” are just good. I also like “Conquerer”, because it is a nice combination of slightly more angry riff and melody. These songs are lengthy, but Einherjer managed to create structures, with some cool arrangements, nice instrumental parts, a lot of diversity (love that acoustic break in “Storm of the Elder”), also vocals are often different (with Rune’s harsher vocals and Audud’s clean singing), so it is a good listen. Sure, this album will disappoint listeners, who prefer only harsh and aggressive stuff. But if you’re looking for well composed, melodic, yet epic Viking metal, then I think this debut from Einherjer is one of the best choices.
Standout tracks: “Dragons of the North”, “Conquerer”
Final rate: 70/100
In every genre, there's a handful of bands that write truly groundbreaking, innovative material. Behind them are bands that, while not being as groundbreaking or original as the first category, still put out material of consistent quality. Then, we have the rest, who are utterly content to follow the first two groups without adding anything of value, and are, for the most part, utterly forgettable.
If bands like Windir, Bathory, or Moonsorrow fit into the first category for Viking metal, then Einherjer fit squarely in the third. There's almost nothing on "Dragons of the North" that sounds particularly memorable or interesting. As another reviewer pointed out, the whole album feels like a shittier version of Windir; indeed, throughout my listening to this album, I kept thinking of how it sounded like "Arntor" without any of the speed, aggression, or passion, or pretty much anything that made "Arntor" such a great piece of work. But don't get me wrong, Dragons of the North isn't a "bad" album; there's nothing on here that made me want to rupture my eardrums with an icepick, but there's simply no reason for me to listen to this when I can find any album by Bathory or Windir that sounds ten times better. There's no sense of passion, and no sense that the band take their subject matter seriously.
Take, for example, the aforementioned "Arntor." Here was an album that wasn't just about Vikings looting and pillaging, but dealt with actual historical events. When I listen to the track "Arntor, Ein Windir" I can see myself standing by the fjords of Sogndal and actually seeing what's being sung about in the song taking place. Compare this to "Slaget Ved Harfsfjord" which, despite being about an actual historical battle, fails to conjure up any image but of a band in a recording studio, going through the motions. DOTN has no real atmosphere to speak of, and if you're looking for something stirring and epic, you won't find it.
The album opens with the title track, which is probably the best, despite the awful lyrics. It has a sort of rollicking, folkish feel to it, with a singer sounding like he's totally fucking wasted, and is the only song on the whole album that has any sort of feeling or passion to it. After this, however, the album goes downhill in a hurry, as Einherjer are content to repeat the same formula for every song - start with a series of annoying, repetitive, and simplistic riffs, and build the entire song around it. I lost track of the times where the song would repeat a series four or five of notes over and over, as if they couldn't find any other way to fill up that space. Consequently, every song feels at least twice as long as it should be, and they all sort of blend together into one big mass in the end. There's hardly any variation in tempo throughout the album; Einherjer remains strickly mid-paced for the whole affair. I soon got tired of every song feeling so damned SLOW, and I kept waiting for them to let loose with a faster-paced number, but it never happened.
In addition to the constant sameness throughout, DOTN never really seems to "go" anywhere as an album. It's rather hard to explain, but my favorite albums always had their most powerful track at the end, so when you had finished listening to it, you had a satisfied sense of closure. With DOTN, the album just sort of...ends. I'm guessing that the final track "Ballad of the Swords" is supposed to be the "epic closer" but it's such a snoozer of a song I barely noticed that the album was even finished.
But if there's one thing that really kills this album, it's the awful production. The overall sound is horribly tinny, with absolutely no low-end or heaviness to speak of. The backing guitars sound so hopelessly gutless that they might as well not even be there. The drums sound like someone hitting a desk with a pen and pencil; they have no kick or bite to them whatsoever. It's certainly not a good thing that an album so lacking in balls is further gutted by a tinny production job. Granted, you might say that Windir's debut Sóknardalr had bad production, but the sheer quality of the music was enough to overcome it. In Einherjer's case, the bad production simply makes a mediocre album sound worse.
In the end, there's no real reason to buy this album, as bands like Bathory or Windir do it far, far better. At least Einherjer had the good sense to recognize the limits of their abilities and call it quits after four albums.
Einherjer was one of those bands I heard of ages ago, but never got around to listening to them. I finally decided I would check them out. The band was getting decent reviews, so maybe I'm missing something here but honestly, in my opinion, this is complete crap.
The only good thing about this CD is the really cool artwork. The rest of the album is pretty shit and pretty formulaic. It's one of the worst albums I've ever heard, especially for Viking metal. It can be summed up pretty effectively like this: really annoying, slow, simple and scratchy riffs, which are repeated over and over again, which just draws out the agony, for the most part, pretty simple drumming and down right ghastly vocals just to top the whole thing off. Furthermore, there doesn't appear to be any backing guitars, so it gives the songs an incomplete feeling. That’s pretty much the jist of the entire album. I can't really remember anything specific from the album it just blurs into one long song really. The album is completely devoid of any atmosphere.
For all those Windir fans out there who wonder what Windir would sound like if they were terrible, then this is it. I admit I have only listened to this album once, so I don't really know it that well, but man, oh man, it so agonizing to listen to I don’t think I'd want to hear it again. Some albums can seem mediocre when you listen to them the first time; however, I highly doubt I'd like the album any better if I listened to it multiple times, and after all how can I end up liking annoying riffs? If you ever want to torture someone without physically harming them, tie them up and put headphones in their ears and force them to listen to this us over and over again, they'll talk.
(This album gets 12 because the artwork rocks, apart from that, this is sheer misery.)
Conclusion: The above is not recommended for download or purchase.
No, Dragons of the North is not the title of the last album by some retarded Rhapsody clone. Just look at the cover... Drakkars, of course! The mood is set: Einherjer is likely to deliver kickass Viking metal, and it’s exactly what happens. The formula is: total Bathory worship (Viking era, of course) enhanced by extensive use of sumptuous keyboards and folk tunes, everything used in the right proportion to keep the heavy, epic feeling of the album.
Songs like Dreamstorm, Conquerer, or Storms of the Elder are absolute gems, all clocking above 6:30: fast, epic pounding drums, catchy keyboards melodies found in some good old book of traditional tunes, guitars showing at the right moment to remind the listener he’s still listening to Viking METAL, epic choirs and deep, harsh vocals. Some other songs (Dragons of the North, Forever Empire, Fimbul Winter) sound closer to Bathory spirit, guitars playing the most important part there, these songs featuring very few keyboards or folk overdubs. Actually the band manages perfectly to keep the balance between guitar-driven and more melodic, keyboard-driven tracks, preventing the album from becoming repetitive. Indeed, the longest songs feature both aspects, with lots of breaks and tempo changes (like Conquerer, beginning with some harsh guitar-driven part and eventually finishing by a neverending instrumental part).
Some songs show a slight amount of clean vocals which are not the most memorable part of the album, except an exceptional spoken part in Storms of the Elder, at 5:10, backed by keyboards and acoustic guitars – all but cheesy, simply superb. As is Ballad of the Swords, a genuine ballad where acoustic guitars are of course predominant, which closes the album on a somewhat sadder note.
One can’t really say these guys are absolute virtuosos – right, they know how to play their instruments, but they certainly would know even better if they weren’t obviously drunk as fuck, but it’s the law of the genre – but who cares. I would however like to single out the drummer: Strong, inventive, and above all, EPIC, knowing how to use double bass on a clever fashion, what is not so frequent, he is the real driving force before this album. Indeed, drums are perfectly mixed, loud enough to support the songs, but not overwhelming.
There might be a weaker track - Slaget Ved Harfsfjord. Keyboards sound too much electronic on it, what is a shame in a Viking metal song. The rest of this slow-paced song is decent but lacks a bit of imagination, to sum up, Quorthon has already done it, and better. Otherwise, this album, easily the best Einherjer has ever recorded, perhaps because it is more metal-oriented than its followers, simply kills. Listen to it, jump into your drakkar and go pillaging, well it’s as simple as that.
Highlights: Dragons of the North, Dreamstorm, Conquerer, Storms of the Elder
Einherjer's first full length release was and is one of the better viking metal releases to date. The album is filled with mid paced folky guitar riffs, subtle keyboards (for the most part) and a good vocal offering from Nidhogg, who in retrospect was their best vocalist. You will not find the power metal influenced Einherjer of later years in this album. This album sticks strong to its viking roots. The use of acoustic guitar is very prevelant in this release as heard in Dreamstorm, Conquerer , Storms of the Elder, and Ballad of the Swords. Conquerer and Storms of the Elder are the most epic songs on the album, and contain all the elements one would expect to find on a viking metal release. I would almost go as far to say this is one of the best viking metal albums ever, but the song Slaget Ved Harfsfjord and its use of christmas style keyboards totally through off the whole feel of the album. The song in itself is not bad but the keyboard use is all wrong. Dreamstorm has the quickest pace on the album, yet retains a very catch melody. This was the song that made me buy the album, and still remains one of my favorite's in the genre.
All in all this is a great release, and for fans of Einherjer who have never listened to anything prior to "Odin Owns Ye All" this is a definite must, as the McD Aurora Borealis. Einherjer should have broken up after this record if they considered Blot their best effort.