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Now on the release of their sixth full length in a nine-year span since the tragic demise of Valfar brought about the end of one of this writer's all-time favourite acts, Windir, Vreid have hit on a sound that is working well for them and has helped secure a decent stock without every truly blasting through the gates of the black metal genre. The band prosper a 'black n' roll' vibe as the need to openly display their heritage has played second fiddle to a sound that is surprisingly further from the Windir template than might have been expected, considering that three-quarters of the original line-up (now it is all four-quarters) are ex-servicemen of Valfar, but forged on the typical frosty melodic blackened aesthetic "Welcome Farewell" for the first time arguably exhales flashes of the flourishing guitar lead work that for me defines the brilliance of Windir. As heard in the high points of "Way of the Serpent" and "The Devil's Hand" the intricate lead abilities of Strom rushes over the pulsating rhythms to firmly lay down a mark of intent early on in the record.
Most of the reactions to "Welcome Farewell" so far seem to have been overwhelmingly positive and it is easy to see why the thrash influenced riffs appeal. Opener "The Ramble" effortlessly glides into life in a manner that on one hand appears terribly simple yet works wonderfully well. Listening to the most shallow of modern metal one could easily assume the art of bridging varying sections of a song has been totally forgotten - here is a lesson in how to conduct it. "Way of the Serpent" begins on a mission as its forcefully direct opening riff aims straight for the muscles in the neck God created for headbanging. As if it's thrashing tempo was not enough to behold, the lead guitar work of Strom, while too quiet in the mix for my liking, is a direct link back to the glory days of Windir and what made tracks like "Svartesmeden Og Lundamyrstrollet" the classics they are. Careful attention is given to the build-up in the title track as the first minute leads into a pounding delivery of riffs derived from pure heavy metal of old, albeit with a frosty Norwegian twist, before clean-toned guitars welcome the song's farewell volley of flourishing lead and rhythms solos. "The Reap" does not sound unlike a restrained Kvelertak track built on a strong punky aesthetic while "Sights of Old" showcases how an angular lead riff accompanying the verse, rather than the safer territory of flurrying chords, can give a song a markedly different feel. Through it's eight minutes the song glides through following thrash and mellower sections before the Pink Floyd-esque bass opening to "Black Waves" marks a slower, groovier track ahead but which ultimately leaves no lasting impression. Closer "At the Brook" packs punch but also fades out devoid of imprinting it’s identity over me.
The grizzled vocals of Sture have never been the strongest and remain an area for improvement but his legible delivery gives added weight to the subjects of history and nation that have always been a highlight in Vreid. They also detract from the notion of Vreid being an outright black metal band - having never honed the folk influences that were heavy in Windir their purer metal style essentially renders them a blackened metal band. At it's peak "Welcome Farewell" touches on the brightest moments in Vreid's career so far - "Way of the Serpent" in particular - but ultimately that high level falls off towards the latter stages to leave what is still a very good album and which should further affirm Vreid's name as one of the more important acts of today.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
Continuing to build off their relative success over the last nine years, Vreid return with their sixth full length, “Welcome Farewell”. Vreid have always had a knack for writing catchy riffs that border on the rockier, more traditional side of things, and this album is no different in that capacity. “Welcome Farewell” is an album that flirts with black and roll, thrash and straight up black metal, while still retaining a very cohesive and accessible feel. Despite the accessibility, this is still a heavy album which should appeal to those mocking the last line that I wrote.
When Vreid first formed, back in 2004, many complained that the band diverged too far from the pagan black leanings of Windir. If you’ve followed Vreid’s career at all, then you’ll know that there are some similarities to Windir (especially in the lead guitar work): there would have to be, as this point in Vreid’s story there are four former Windir members; but if you think Vreid is just another Windir clone, then you are very, very wrong. While Vreid does maintain a black metal foundation, the black and roll and thrash elements are much more prominent this time around.
Much like Entombed did with death metal, Vreid keep the core of the genre and make it much more accessible to those from the outside. Rather than blasting away to all abandon for three quarters of an hour, “Welcome Farewell” utilizes rock rhythms and traditionally inspired leads to create a massively enjoyable listening experience. Songs like “Death’s Head” and parts of “Sights of Old” bring forth a form of thrashy black metal while “The Ramble” and “Way of the Serpent” show the band utilizing fast paced trem lines and blistering drum beats (the biggest Windir influence on display here). Rollicking bass lines and chunky riffing help provide some headbanging chugging sections. The vocals stay in a deeper, raspy, shouted style for the most part, coming across like Galder's vocals on the Old Man's Child masterpiece, “The Pagan Prosperity”.
Not afraid to delve into a more commercial direction, songs like “The Reap” couple “Clayman” era In Flames riffing with a deeper style of raspy shouting, which builds into traditional styled, scaled leads float around while a running double bass beat tracks along. The albums longest runner, “Sights of Old”, starts off with a ferocious black metal lick and blast-beats which builds into a very Aura Noir inspired thrash fest. After battling back and forth between thrash and black, the band wanders off into a sort of indie rock section with spacy melodic guitars for a while until coming to a close. I could go on and on about how each track is a rocking form of black metal with thrash influences and how it all bounces back and forth before settling back down into black and roll, but that would be annoyingly redundant and is probably already bordering on redundancy with the descriptions already written.
Vreid's “Welcome Farewell” would be a good starting point for anyone looking to test the waters of black metal. There's enough of the harsh material here to please most fans of black metal and there's enough melody, catchiness and plain rocking out to appeal to fans outside of the circle. While purists will no doubt be turned off by these outside elements, there is a lot here to enjoy by enthusiasts of several genres: black metal, thrash, traditional, etc. Vreid may not be the exact reincarnation of the legendary Windir, but they are pretty damn good at what they do: black and roll that is as hard as iron, yet still surprisingly accessible.
Written for The Metal Observer:
To the black ‘n’ roll/melodic black metal enthusiast, Vreid is a band that probably needs no introduction. But for those of you out there, dear metal brothers and sisters, who haven’t yet experienced their original brand of black art, it’s safe to assure you that this Norwegian band is amongst the finest practitioners of this particular form. Arising from the demise of the legendary Windir, Vreid developed a style more polished and accessible than the one by their forefathers, by injecting a dose of 70’s rock and 80’s metal aesthetics into their traditional Norsk black metal. So yeah, this is not precisely for those of you out there belonging to the “kvlt” mob, as this band deviates from the norm in a similar manner to Satyricon’s last three releases, or the Immortal’s family I project from 2006.
Welcome Farewell is the band’s sixth album, right after the amazing and rightfully acclaimed V, probably their strongest offering so far. It was no easy task to top that one, and I won’t lie to you, Welcome Farewell is a bit of a disappointment in that regard. The riffs are not that enticing, the melodies not as enthralling, the solos are less prominent, both in appearance and in quality, and the overall songwriting is not that strong. This is not a shocking surprise, as the preceding record was near flawless. But fear not, because this 2013 release is still very solid and filled with a great deal of thrills. For starters, Kim Holm’s artwork is one noticeable surprise, a total change in style compared to Vreid’s past covers. I won’t laud it as the greatest cover ever, but it’s certainly a good match for the lyrical themes and musical voyages awaiting the listener inside the disc.
The production seems a tiny notch grimmer than on V, harkening back to their first albums instead, and that also suites the themes of death and decay of the record. It isn’t a raw black metal sound, but it’s definitely not as crisp and modern as on their preceding work, and I’m sure that might bring out a few smiles from some of you, grimness lovers, out there. All the instruments are clearly audible, and the bass guitar’s throbbing can be appreciated both when intertwining with the rest of the instruments and when given a space to shine on it’s own for a few seconds. The guitars tone is adequate, both when charging with rhythmic tundra chugging and when exploding in clear melody. I also dig the drums sound, with pretty organic toms. As for the vocals, they sound a bit more menacing this time, so no complaints there.
In the end, Welcome Farewell might not be one of Vreid’s finest hours, but it is no slouch in their career either. I recommended it to the fan of the band’s other works, and as a fine starting point for the newbie. I found the first three tracks of the album the less inspiring, mainly “The Devil’s Hand”, the weakest link here. Both opener “The Ramble” and “Way of the Serpent” have its moments, especially the latter’s coiling finale, whose folksy melodies remind me of fellow countrymen Kampfar early works, and that’s a good thing, in case you were wondering. Though the album really improves when the titular track arrives, easily one of the album’s highlights, almost on par with V’s tunes. Afterwards, the single “The Reap” and the eight-minute ever morphing “Sights of Old” remain strong songs, while the two four-minute closers, the extra catchy “Black Waves” and the proggy “At the Brook”, are even better, ending the album on a high note.
Originally written for Metal Recusants [metalrecusants.com]