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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