without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Most heavy metal fans born in the 70s (such as me) discovered their favorite music as teens through thrash metal, which experienced then a true golden age. Amazing records were launched by legendary bands such as Slayer, Metallica and others. This surly and aggressive brand of music marked the spirit of a young musicians’ generation who took this heritage to forge new styles, including black metal. For twenty years, countless bands built their identity on this inexhaustible legacy. I admit, however, being tired of this proliferation, which is certainly not a guarantee of quality and/or originality. But – sometimes – I let myself be seduced by bands who manage to revive the spirit of a music that deeply affected me.
That is how I discovered Heimdalls Wacht, a German group which I’d never heard about, and their fifth album called Ekte Westfäölske Svatte Metal (a title I gave up trying to translate). Quick finding: everything on this disc exudes my teen years’ thrash metal. Despite the pagan metal tag that sticks to their music because of their lyrical choices, the group clearly draws its inspiration from 1980s classics.
Stuffed with big riffs and a raspy production, songs multiply winks and homages. Thus one can easily recognize South of Heaven first notes on Unsiälige Kiar, or Fade to Black on Tiwaz – Entflammt (and I do not even mention the hidden song, you’d think took right out of an Anthrax album). Fortunately, the group manages to override simple plagiarism and infuses its own identity in its writing, thanks to frequent acoustic guitar passages and warrior sounding choruses. Note also the extremely heavy and martial drumming, with many tom-tom strokes, scattered over almost all songs.
I cannot avoid feeling certain nostalgia when listening to Ekte Westfäölske Svatte Metal. This records reminds me of a time not so long ago, spent listening to metal while drinking beer with friends, while don’t giving a fuck about the future. Well, future finally caught up with me, so I am grateful to bands like Heimdalls Wacht, which keep alive the spirit of music that doesn’t show any wrinkle. So thirtysomething readers dealing with reality: turn it up and tighten the fist, to remember the good old days!
Originally written for Métal Obscur.
German pagan/black metal horde Heimdalls Wacht this year releases Ekte Westfäölske Svatte Metal, the follow up to their excellent 2010 full length album, Nichtorte – Oder die Geistreise des Runenschamanen. Crazed screams and shouts of agony greet the listener on opening track Seelenkrieg, setting a rather disturbing mood extremely early into the start of the album. But the band soon goes into their solid style of pagan/black metal as the album begins proper with the title track Ekte Westfäölske Svatte Metal.
The music here reeks strongly of influences from early Norwegian black metal, and comparisons to such pioneering bands as Darkthrone can be easily heard, though more often than not comparisons to bands like Satanic Warmaster are pretty abundant as well, with the trebly riffs that are unleashed, and the playing style of guitarists A.P. and Saruman and the cold, bleak outlook that has a heavy presence throughout the album. However, unlike the aforementioned bands, there is a heavier pagan/folk sound on Ekte Westfäölske Svatte Metal, especially with things such as the additional percussions that are on the album that provide a rather epic sound to the music of Heimdalls Wacht. These additional percussions also serve to create a heavier impact in the music as well, evident on moments such as the intro of Unsiälige Kiär. Narhemoth’s vocals are tortured and savage, further reinforcing that harsh atmosphere that already assaults the listener’s ears.
Apart from the pagan feel, there are also moments where the band goes into somewhat depressive black metal territories, with the somewhat melancholic melodies and the acoustic guitars that are pretty heavily utilised at times, and it is times like these when bands like Drowning the Light are brought to mind as well. The entire focus of the album seems to be on the atmosphere that is created through the coalescing of all the various instruments, especially with the clean singing and frantic chants that appear rather constantly as the album progresses, like on Unsiälige Kiär. Furthermore, the instrumentation on the album isn’t particularly technical nor complex as well, and there are even moments that come across as slightly sloppy, though these instead help to provide a more organic feel to the entire recording.
The raw and trebly production of the album helps to make the songs all the more enchanting, and allows for the raw emotions that are contained within the songs to really seep out and get to the listener, especially in the clean vocals that are contained on the record. Heimdalls Wacht‘s Ekte Westfäölske Svatte Metal is an album that is sure to please fans of atmospheric black metal, with Norwegian black metal roots.
When I hear the words 'Pagan Black Metal' immediately folk influence springs to mind, when I hear that it's 'Pagan Black Metal' from Germany, then regrettably my first thought is 'This sounds like a nice cover story to insert NS influence into the music, dressing it up in another guise', to my utter jubilation Heimdalls Wacht is neither of these things.
Heimdalls Wacht for all intents and purposes play straight black metal 90's style, the only real influence that I felt from the 'Pagan' side of things was the lyrics which seem to cover Norse heritage and exploits related to old gods. To be honest the lyrics are par for the course and are nothing that haven't been read before in Immortal/Enslaved/Borknagar but I must give credit where it's due, the boys evidently have an agenda that they wish to follow artistically and I cannot deny them that, in fact I think it's a cause for celebration beyond the standard psuedo-Satanic dross that is the staple of so many bands in black metal.
The music whilst not totally original has some incredibly nice melodies floating through the songs, it is an album chock full of old school worship with the feel of 80's thrash and more melodious second wave bands really coming to the fore, yet Heimdalls Wacht are able to make it their own. Occasionally through the songs there is choiral backing vocals that give an excellent sense of atmosphere and really add another dimension to the tracks, these along with some very nice riffs mean that the record has adequately carved out its own niche in a genre burdened and overcome by bands treading the same old methods and formulae.
The instrumentation on the album is very competent, there is nothing that is truly original or noteworthy but every instrument is played with talent and conviction. Everything is audible in the mix and the production has just the right amount of atmosphere to it whilst also lending enough clarity to hear everything that is being executed on the album, and that is where the album's try mastery lies. The album is structured and brought together very well, with some beautiful sweeping acoustic passages, small nuanced extras such as guitar slides, and additional vocals; everything happens at just the right time, and I feel that the band have maximised the potential of the songs as much as they can, there is little that feels lacking in content nor does it feel bloated by additional tweaking and composition.
This album has grown on me massively since I first started listening to it and as far as straight traditional black metal goes I would easily place it as one of the best albums I've heard this year, it has just the right amount of old school worship whilst working in original ideas to be fresh and enticing. I have to confess to how enjoyable it is, I thought I had had more than my share fill of second wave stuff to last me a lifetime and was honestly surprised at how much I liked it, which goes to show good music executed well is good music.
Ekte Westfäölske Svatte Metal is like seeing an old friend after a long time; you may know what experience to expect but that doesn't mean once you actually spend time with them it's no less fun and that new things won't arise to surprise you and give a slightly different experience than what you expected.
Recommended for fans of old Borknagar, Enslaved, Satyricon (Shadowthrone era) and Ulver.
(Originally written for baileysmmcreamy.blogspot.com)