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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)