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Without a second's doubt, I hereby state that I consider this one of the top 3 metal albums ever recorded, all categories.
Everything about it is just perfect. From the first hypnotic keyboard notes preceding the furious frenzy of Todeswalzer, to the last fading techno synth-lines and pounding double bass drums of Journey To The End, this album is sheer musical bliss straight through. This is one of these albums that penetrate you and become a state of mind rather than a compilation of musical tunes. Listening to this album elevates your soul into the skies, where it hovers peacefully, looking down upon the suddenly so insignificant earth, in a state of total spiritual superiority...
There are a number of factors contributing to the greatness of this album. The main element, the driving force, are the late metal prodigy Valfar's highly energetic and passionate vocal and lyrical contributions to the music. It's detectable from miles away; this is a young man who loves what he his doing, who puts his entire soul and heart into it, resulting in something more than just regular music.
In my opinion, the raw, powerful, perfectly balanced black metal shrieks that Valfar delivers on this record surpasses any other vocal contribution he's ever made to a Windir album. The lyrics are mostly in English this time, whereas the songs on the earlier releases were sung in the Sogndal Norwegian dialect. But this, one of the band's trademarks, is present in two tracks on 1184 aswell, namely the title track and Heidra. The clean vocal parts sung by guest vocalist Cosmocrator are overwhelmingly beautiful and mesmerizing, and provide a perfect contrast to Valfar's harsh screams. They are also a vital part in making the climaxes of songs such as Heidra(around the 4:00 mark) and Journey To The End(just before the techno part commences) what they are.
Secondly, the music. On Windir's earlier releases, Valfar was known to do most of the songwriting himself, both musically and lyrically. However, on this album, the band plays with a full line-up. Still, I do believe that Valfar did a major part of the songwriting on this album aswell.
The guitar work is excellent, providing innovative and melodic riffs, a steady factor always holding up the music. As opposed to Arntor, the guitar melodies are reduced a bit in favor of the keyboards, but they are still very much prominent and works perfectly with the rest of the music. The folk-ish twin-guitar melodies from Arntor still find their way into the music here and there, which is a great thing.
Steingrim's drumming is simplistic yet very tight, solid and fitting. This simplicity is in fact a good thing in this case, since it doesn't take the focus away from the melodies. There are a few moments where they tend to get a wee bit repetitive, such as the second half of Journey To The End, but when concealed in the onslaught of melody coming from the other instruments aswell as the vocals, they fit perfectly with the music in its entire.
As mentioned, the keyboards are the prominent source of melody on this album alongside the guitars, resulting in a perfect musical harmony. They add the extremely majestic and epic atmosphere that is essential in making this music as good as it is. Hovering above the frantic, high-speed drumming and Valfar's haunting, forceful vocals, in perfect harmony with the beautifully melodic guitar riffs, this is the final and one of the most important parts in this furious maelstrom of divine melodies, aggression and passion that is 1184.
Any extreme metal fan with self-respect needs to own this, no questions asked.
This opus, this masterpiece, this utterly perfect marriage between melody and aggression is a true musical landmark in every sense and should serve as a textbook example of how melodic black metal is supposed to sound.
Listening to this is the closest to immortality you'll ever get.
Windir formed in the early 90s in Sogndal, Norway. The band was originally a solo project of Valfar, who hired session musicians for specific duties in studio like drums and lead guitar. It was with 1184 that the band Ulcus, whose bassist Valfar was neighbours with, joined Windir. 1184 marked the most well produced album by Windir to date, and proved that Valfar (who still wrote most of the songs with some help from Hvall) could consistently release amazing music. Unfortunately Windir would tragically end in January of 2004 with the death of Valfar at the young age of 25.
Regarding the death of Valfar, there are some lyrics on this album that perplex me. Take for instance the lyrics of Journey to the End -
A fate, a destiny,
an inevitable early death
Finally I'm dead,
And the vision is revealed for everyone else
The lyrics seem to have a retrospective quality, as if they were written after Valfar's death, even though this album was recorded in 2001. There are also numerous other examples that point to this -
Dying with sorrow not in hand,
Welcoming my gods, an equal I am,
A travel awaits before me,
Encircled as a God, dead as a man
While this lyrics obviously were unknowingly written by Valfar regarding his death three years later, it is almost scary how relevant they are to Windir as a band.
Now on to the music, the main focus for most people out there. Windir's music can be described as aggressive, folky, epic and very varied. The musical trademark of the lead guitar playing an arpeggio riff in the upper register is seen right away on Todeswalzer the opener. The fast tempo and basic tremelo rhythm guitar and double bass driven drums are also in true Windir style. This may all be very boring if it were done in a monotone and predictable fashion but there is much variation to be found. Clean vocals and harsh vocals are found on various songs, accordion is incorperated into the title track, a synth driven techno type section is found at the end of Journey to the End, and the chord progressions have some great unexpected direction. Windir is a band that you can have playing in the background for energy driven metal, but also a band that you can listen to for nuances that aren't obvious if you aren't paying attention like time signature and key signature changes.
Production is pretty much spot on. Guitars are edgy enough to sound heavy but not over distorted, drumming has good balance between snare, kick drum and cymbals. Bass is also suprisingly high in the mix for a metal band. It also plays considerably higher than most metal bands, playing on strings other than just the E String and contributing to the melodic and harmonic aspects of the music. Synths are mostly in the background barely heard and creating purely atmosphere. The exception to this is when there are synth only breaks during which the synths are naturally turned up higher in the mix. Vocals are also excellent, not overly loud or distorted but still harsh enough to drive the verses and choruses of the cd.
Musically the music is probably only moderately hard to play at best, but riffs like Todeswalzer's opening, Destroy's verse and Journey to the End prove that simple tremelo riffs can be far more than mediocre if set up correctly and arranged well. If you wish to hear a cd of immense emotional depth and energy then 1184 should be a cd that will become one of your all-time favorites. Many bands try to blend the folk influenced metal that Windir mastered but it is fair to say that none ever mastered it as well as Valfar. An excellent blend of black viking and folk metal, and a very original and refreshing album.
Terje "Valfar" Bakken
1978 - 2004
Windir was a band of incredible talent, one of the best black metal bands to have surfaced in the late nineties. This band was formed by a young man by the name of Terje Bakken, better known as Valfar. Valfar was a man of pride. He had great pride in his country, and he wanted to let that be known. Windir in short, fuses black metal with folk music. While the concept on paper seems like it would not work, this could not be any farther from the truth.
The music is quite distinctive, sounding like raw black metal, enhanced with folk, which is calculated perfectly. The songs are fast paced and vicious, with some of the best vocals I've heard in black metal. There are many keyboard preludes into folk passages, where session vocalist Cosmocrator chants. The title track is probably the best example of this. It starts off very fast paced, and then breaks off into a slow keyboard passage that sounds very sinister, and then proceeds back to a fast tempo. Most of the songs follow this pattern in some form of another. There is much speed with chaotic nature to be found on here, namely on the tracks Black New Age and Dance Of The Mortal Lust. The basic instruments are done well, but the keyboards provide a lot of the structure. There are also many atmospheric moments to be found, namely in the end of the track Journey To The End. There seems to be a little something for fans of all genres of extreme metal to be found on here in some form or another. The lyrics, all written by Valfar, are mainly about fantasy, myth, ancient tales, and misanthropy.
This album is easily my favorite of the four Windir albums, although they are all quite good. I would recommend this to any fan of black metal. It's too unfortunate that Valfar had to die at such an early age. Buy this album at all costs, that is, if you can even find it.
I have all of Windir's albums (although I am yet to listen to Sóknardalr & Sogneriket) and out of what I've heard, this album is my favorite. Quite frankly I think this album is slightly underrated. In short this album is amazing. Valfar really was a masterful musician. If you like black metal, then you'll this.
All of Windir's album's take some time if you are going to like them as a whole. Sure, there are some songs which I liked first, e.g. "The Spiritlord" but others I thought were OK, nothing special. Had this been my first Windir album and I had only ever listened to the album once, I'd probably give this album an 80 and say that Windir are a bit overrated. So, if you're considering buying a Windir album, make sure you listen to it at least 5 times; otherwise you might not appreciate all they have to offer. Now after listening to this album about 10 times or so, I can fairly review this album.
This album is a standout Viking/black metal album. It has everything a black metal fan could possibly want: fast, heavy songs, good, intense riffing with very fast, technical drumming. Unlike other Windir albums though, this album has an easy listening intermission thrown somewhere in them, kind of like Opeth but instead of being 50% heavy 50% easy listening like Opeth, it generally ranges from about 10-30% easy listening and 70-90% heavy. The easy listening sections of the album give this a more graceful listen, nicer listen. However, don't get me wrong, this isn't the type of music you play when you're driving your granny around. As implied above, it is still quite heavy and aggressive, so in that regard, you will not be disappointed.
The vocal performance is quite good; Valfar can do great things with his voice. He can do the deeper death metal growl, to the high pitched, angry shrieks of black metal. In addition he can also do clean vocals, which is why I was surprised he got a guest musician in to do clean vocals. Due to the fact Cosmocrator sounds a lot like Valfar, sometimes it's very hard to tell who is doing clean vocals. I think Cosmocrator has slightly higher pitched vocals than Valfar if you really want to try and tell the difference.
I also think Valfar was a bit of a techno nut. In his previous album, Arntor you could tell there were techno elements in some of the songs such as "Kampen". Here there is a basically an entire song on this album which is a techno song "Journey to the End". However, don't get me wrong, this song is still good.
All these elements combined, give Windir a unique sound, after a few listens to a couple of Windir albums, you'll begin to notice they have a unique sound which most bands develop. It's quite hard to describe, however let me assure you, it is definitely a good sound.
This album doesn't put Windir's legacy to shame, it is a flawless piece of black metal. What is a shame though, is that Valfar died before while he was still in his creative prime. Maybe he did "Sell his soul for rock and roll" after all? Maybe you'd have to, to be this good at music. Who really knows? All I know is that this album is absolutely amazing.
With Valfar you have the screams and shrieks well in tune with the rhythm of the tracks and very enjoyable. Clean vocals are added with guest vocalist Cosmocrator for Viking purposes - also enjoyable in their own right. The guitar playing is always upbeat and very enthusiastic. Steingrim kicks ass on the battery with his relentless pummeling. Bass involvement is kept to a minimal when the whole group is in on the fun, but it has its moments during breaks. The keyboard also allows a layer of intricacy, developing its own method for resolving dull tastes and replacing them with catchy hooks and interludes. I should lastly add that the entire album is clearly audible. Everything is polished and balanced.
The one track in my opinion, thus far representing Windir’s overall style, would be “The Spiritlord”. Everything from Valfar’s raspy, pissed off screams to Strom’s and Sture’s annihilating riffs – the backbone of the album - are honed for this band-effort. The solo at about 2:50 and the interlude at 4:49 are serious breaks that will leave the listener refreshed into understanding that there is unique formula here, thus creating the correct idea that they aren’t listening to meandering songs. Much of their material is well rounded and straightforward unlike the longer songs from before. Windir also manages to create tracks that are very rock-based, providing many heavy yet catchy riffs.
This album is definitely a success. Unlike a lot of the similar bands, Windir steps away from a generic, boring style of tremolo picking, blast beats and growls and instead they incorporate melodic passages into their writing style, and create a real atmosphere without having to sounds like they recorded their music in a trashcan.
Starting off with one of my favourite Windir tracks, Todewalzer, which uses all of their song writing ability and creates an atmospheric, heavy piece of material that uses a folky, waltzy style as its backdrop. The album progresses into 1184, which is the title track, and that is another success with a slow introduction which progresses into a frantic piece of metal. Dance of Mortal Lust is my least favourite track on the album, it doesn’t really strive to meet any particular purpose – other than to be a rather standard track. The Spiritlord and Heidra, are great tracks – almost thrashy and not boring at all. There is some brilliant soloing and the interludes are very well thought out so the track does not fall in to the generic brain obliteration of so many bands. Destroy and Black New Age are for the most part cut from the same cloth as Dance of Mortal Lust, but use some effects and generate a bit of variety which gives them the edge over that track. Journey to the End is a slower track which ends the album on a high note.
Windir have tried to take the black metal scene with this album and others, which can get boring at times and attempted to do something different. 1184 is a solid album that is worthy of purchase.
Unfortunately I learned about the existence of Windir only recently, after Valfar had passed away. I am glad I checked out this band though. I have been quite disappointed about a lot of the typical folk metal outings of these days, and with bands like Borknagar and Vintersorg either changing their sound completely or releasing mediocre albums, Windir is great for your weekly folk metal fix.
The album starts out with catchy keyboard melodies, which are shortly joined by the very unique harsh black metallish vocals of Valfar. The melodies are based around folk scales but will not make you think it’s just another band playing traditional folk tunes on guitar. They are unique structures only inspired by the folk music of Scandinavia. Catchy as hell they are though. Your neck will definitely be a-rocking in a pleasant manner to this, as it is still undeniably metal.
The riffs on this album seem to be more technical than on the previous releases, and this adds a certain intensity to the music. There are no ultra-wank solos and pointless single instrument wankery either, the technicality supports the music as its separate aesthetic here. The drums are not the focal instrument on this album, mostly just supporting the music, with very minimal fills. The vocals range from the harsher vocals to the well-known, sometimes over-dramatic “Viking” vocals, somewhat reminiscent of Vintersorg’s tone. The intertwining of the clean and harsh vocals is seamless however, and both work together very well, trading off lines in quick succession to create a nice organized chaos. This album has very well-constructed songs. The softer interludes are really just that, in-terludes, that don’t distract from the neckbreaking feel of the rest of the album, which is what it thrives on.
Describing every song separately is not quite necessary, as the whole album flows to-gether in a similar feel, and does not slow down or lose your attention, unless you are easily disgusted by short keyboard moodsetters. If I were forced to choose some great songs on this album I would say I enjoy Todeswalzer, The Spiritlord and the 8 minute plus all-metal Heidra.