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Reaping life's end - 80%

Xyrth, February 22nd, 2013

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]