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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