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In my mind, it is lamentably difficult to dissociate Windir's music from the ill-fated demise of the band's frontman and songwriter, Terje "Valfar" Bakken. That he met his end in a cold of a snowstorm feels drearily appropriate for the music he played in life, and might even seem amusingly ironic, were it not for the fact that friends and family lost a loved one that night, and the black metal scene lost one of its brightest composers. It has been over a decade now since his passing, and people still have his memory in mind when they listen to Windir. His ghost hangs over the music, and begs us to wonder what other masterpieces he might have conjured in the time since fate's deadly trick.
Yet, in spite of the supposed sensationalism that surrounds this and many of the other tragedies in the Norwegian Second Wave, it has never been enough to overshadow the music itself. People might still speculate over the circumstances of Valfar's death, but it's the brilliance Windir exhibited in their vastness of composition and arrangement that keep them sticking around. Arntor was the first Windir album I ever listened to, and it was an all-too rare case of a Second Wave album striking me as a work of genius on my very first listen. The pagan scene is replete with bands that wish to emulate Windir's approach, but none have managed to surpass the formula they perfected on Arntor. The only other artist I can think of that blended traditional black metal with such melody-focused songwriting is Dissection, and given the ever-legendary regard that band earned over the course of two or three albums, it's not bad company for Windir to be in at all.
The strength and significance of melody cannot (read: cannot) be overstated on Arntor. While melodic songwriting tends to get a bad rep in black metal and other 'artistic' genres for being simplistic, cheesy or both, Windir are anything but. The closest thing I could liken their style to outside of bands that influenced them, or were themselves influenced by, would be the Romantic-era classical composers, who gave up some of the pretense of High Classical orchestration to make way for a more sweeping and straightforward beauty. At least four of the seven tracks on Arntor give the staunch impression of classical music performed as black metal. Even (perhaps especially) at the band's most fast-paced and aggressive moments, the guitars are soaring through intensely melodic passages. They are not 'hooks' per se so much as vessels for a conventionally beautiful and sweeping atmosphere, made potentially inaccessible to outsiders of metal fandom only by the merit of the aggressive drumwork and raspy shrieks to be generally expected from the genre. To say that I might bring up Arntor to someone who was looking to first get into black metal shouldn't imply it is simply a gateway to be dismissed once a listener acclimates themselves to more extreme pastures; Arntor is conventionally very beautiful, but it is so at no cost to its depth and longevity.
"Arntor, ein windir" is the song that has engrained itself in my mind the most, if only because it was the 'lightbulb moment' that demonstrated to me how bloody fantastic the rest of the album was bound to be. For Windir, the handling of melody and harmony are one and the same; much like a classical composition, there are often at least a couple of melodies vying for attention, and it is the way they connect and interplay that really matters. Windir occasionally bring clean vocals to bear, but their use of melody in far more in line with the expected Viking formula: deep-pitched, chant-like, and rich in harmony. While Arntor stands out most for its brilliant guitar writing, the more typical elements of pagan metal are executed just as well.
"Kong Hydnes haug", "Svartesmeden og lundamystrollet", and "Saknet" are, in hindsight, just as impressive and beautiful as "Arntor, ein windir", and possibly even bolder when it comes to the overall composition. While the first two are obviously separate tracks, they flow perfectly together, operating from the same tonal origin in such a way that it sounds like one is an inventive variation on the other. While the first three of these tracks are almost uplifting in their soaring melodic appeal, "Saknet" is a much more melancholy piece; without losing any of its conventional beauty, the album's final centrepiece is both predictable in its style, and startling in its refreshing emotional perspective.
There are, of course, three other tracks on Arntor I have glazed over. While they're all solid movements and don't threaten the album's relative 'masterpiece' status, I find it difficult to hold them on the same level of regard as the 'Big Four'-- judging from what I've read on a few other reviews, this tends to be a pretty common criticism. "Byrjing" falls into the done-to-death category of 'synthesizer album intro', the likes of which you've come across a hundred times on other albums of this sort. It's decently atmospheric and more purposefully composed than at least ninety of those mentioned intros, but it does little more than to set the table for the main course. "Kampen" and "Ending", on the other hand, are pretty standard pagan-black metal tunes. "Kampen" in particular is a nice surge of chest-bumping drinking energy in between the two larger epics, but it does sound like Windir were operating on a much less ambitious wavelength with these tracks. Even so; I disagree with the notion that these tracks have no place on Arntor. While they'll never be considered highlights for as long as the album enjoys a listenership, they offer a contrast and reprieve from the jaw-dropping atmosphere. They're solid pagan tunes, but what's more; they stand as a reminder of just how excellent and distinguished the best songs really are in comparison with most of the genre.
Although my personal listening diet often gravitates towards the cosmic end of black metal over its earthly, pagan counterpart, Arntor stands as a masterpiece of its style to my ears, and probably the best album Windir ever put out in their time. The melodic writing is some of the best I have ever heard on a black metal album. Despite his age, Valfar inspired the confidence of a true composer. Whether or not the material is consistent is unimportant when the sum of the parts is so rich and expressive. Everything is in its rightful place. Windir lives on!
Great bands commonly have that one album that just seems to kick things off right. Soknardalr was that album for Norway’s Windir, blazing the way for their seamless composite of folk/black metal. And with the band’s second release of Arntor, fuel is added to the fire, while a prominent point of maturation for the band is engraved in their headstone.
All of a sudden musical frameworks began to form in favour of melody, somehow seeming more meaningful and real than that of the debut, and songs were thus given a clear purpose in Arntor, each track weighed with the burden of an ode to a prophetic warrior. This progression, in essentially becoming overridden with the band’s later push toward mass appeal (incorporating more traditional elements; changing lyrics from Sognamål to English) ultimately distinguishes this album as rogue among the discography.
Arntor is the last solo record of the legendary Terje ‘Valfar’ Bakken and from Beginning to Ending clearly showcases his gift as a composer; he is featured playing all instruments therein (all guitars, keyboards/synths) with the exception of percussion. The overall flow of energy feels fluid, songs seldom dipping into full-fledged interludes while still appearing to link soundly together within the context of the album. Of course, all melodies seem to be ridden with that unique folky undertone that essentially defines the legacy of the band. The vocal style is high-pitched and wretched however is offset by episodes of clean (yet still very folk-inspired) exclamations [hooh!] and fully sung passages [Kong Hydnes haug! Kong Hydnes haug!].
Of Windir’s four albums, Arntor is both my personal favourite and top recommendation to any first-time listener of the band. Though succeeding albums offer more explosiveness, cleaner tones and punchier tunes, making them perhaps more appealing to the average metal seeker, the imprint left by the embracive pall cast by this record is simply unique and unmatched. Here lye some of the most expressive melodies, arrangements and vocal lines of the early band and, although not necessarily going so far as to supersede later works in musical proficiency, advocates well for the beauty in the deeply meaningful undertones splayed throughout.
All things considered, Arntor has much to offer, and I feel criticism of the album is too often centered on its inconsistent nature; people applauding heaviness but complaining when having to yield to tracks like Kampen or Ending, even calling them out to be needless aberrations to the whole of the album. These claims, however, just don’t hold water. What these tracks in particular lack in power, pace or brutality is amply made up for in the intangibility of feel; something certainly not embraced by all but yet is requisite to the underlying purpose of an album. And the strictly folky themes therein are themes that are touched on throughout the entire album; so, I hold that their solidification in full song is no more than an effective generation of atmosphere. It augments the listening experience; is that not something to be asked of an epic record?
Arntor is an amazing album in that almost everything is does by one person. That's right and Valfar sure is a talented individual in that he can play and mix several instruments and still make an amazing piece of music. And of the four Windir albums this one would probably be my favorite. Given its heavy harsh chilling riffs like those on the track Arntor Ein, Windir or some of the calming beautiful atmospheric melodies in the longer tracks. With everything that is happening in the music its hard to believe it was mainly Valfar's mind that was able to come up with all of this
But alas, onto we came to talk about the music. First off the album starts off with a slow melodic piece comprised of folk instruments to give you a peaceful feeling and then "SMACK", the first guitar riff comes in on track 2 giving you a taste of what is to come. Awesome black metal riffs backed keyboards and synths to give an amazing atmosphere. Then its backed by Valfar's black metal screams as well folk chants. And thats with all the mixtures of atmospheric sound on this album its hard to stop paying attention because of everything thats going on and how beautifully melds into beautiful atmosphere that fully engulfs you into the music of Windir.
My favorite track from this album would have to be either Saknet or Svartesmeden og Lundamyrstrollet. In that they are both long epic tracks both over 8 minutes. With Saknet starting with a depressive black metal riff then goes to soothing beautiful synths and goes back to more beautiful riffing backed by blastbeats. Then the song with the really long name starts with an amazing keyboard rhythm backed by a beautiful atmospheric black metal riff and boy is it memorable but then again all the songs are. It even has little melodic breaks that are light but still manage keep my attention somehow unlike softer moments on other albums I have heard.
The album ends well with the heavy and relentless song Ending. It is the heaviest and probably one of the most straightforward songs on the album. It basically sums up the album by making using of keyboard melodies, harsh screams, and chilling riffs, as well as folk in under four minutes while most of the tracks on the album range from 6 to 10 minutes in length.
Overall, I would recommend to this to fans of black metal who don't mind some experimentation as well as those into folk metal. For this album perfectly molds all its influences from black metal to folk music and even a little bit of electronic music. As it truly is an amazing album that usually ends up my rotation of cds to listen to. I also recommend this to people who are looking for something atmospheric but don't want to sacrifice any heaviness to hear it, this album is a great combination of both.
Highlights : Svartesmeden og Lundamyrstrollet, Saknet, Kong Hydnes Hong
Windir was a one-man project by Terje "Valfar" Bakken, which had been going on since 1994, when he was 15-16 years old. This is the second full length album put out by him with session drummer, who in the future would become a full member, Steingrim and additional clean vocals by Steinarson.
This album will take you back in time, back to snowy Norway years ago, when I'm listening to this album I feel like I am in the past, living in a cabin, taking walks in the big mountains, walking into the deep forests and visiting the local village. The atmosphere here is really great and folky despite Valfars lack of traditional instruments used in the music. Accordion is used in the instrumental introduction, "Byrjing". The atmosphere of the song invites you to the journey the album "Arntor" really is. Some decent drumming is also used in the song along some synths.
"Arntor, ein Windir" then kicks in with some really awesome guitar tune, the riff is in high notes, and are in general the key to the folk melodies on the album, now when I said that there was a lack of traditional instruments used. The vocals here are pretty harsh, and they do not change much during the album except for the "Yeeeha" high notes used by Valfar in "Arntor, ein Windir". It is apparently something traditional to sing in the Sogndal area, so do not get confused with cowboys. Clean vocals are used here already by Steinarson and are well used during the album, they are choired a bit and pretty folky, they can become more sad though, there is an example of that in this second song even, when the music changes into something that sounds pretty tragic, synths also kicks in here along acoustic guitar part creating an even thicker atmosphere.
The lyrics are in Sognamål, which is a Norwegian dialect that is pretty different compared to the usual Bokmål spoken in Norway. And the lyrics are mostly old tales from the Sogndal area, the lyrics along the melodic guitar sounds also made the base sound of the genre "Sognametal" that Valfar called his own music (other bands from the area have taken inspiration after Valfars death, Cor Scorpii, Sigtyr, Feigd and Mistur are examples of that).
The guitar work on this album is really really good, riffing is usually in high notes and again folky in their melody, they manage to create the atmosphere, if it's walking in the village or walking in the harsh winter of Norway nearing death, that is how tragic the riffing can go even. "Svartesmeden og Lundamyrstrollet" is an example of that. The use of synths also really makes the music beautiful but also sad even, because it is so damn epic ("Saknet" is a good example of that) but the fact that Valfar died may also play a role when listening to his great music. For me, it feels sometimes that I am in his shoes listening to this.
The songs "Ending" and "Kampen" are more blackish, the riffing is not in a high note and the synths are also pretty gloomy sounding. I don't have much more to say about this album other than if you are into folk/viking metal this album should not be missed, it is really epic.
"Windir" apparently means "warrior" in the Sognamal dialect. But Wiindir the band is the farthest thing from a warrior -- this is more like a plastic soldier produced from a factory. First, the idea directly opposed to the spirit of warrior. Sugar-coated folk melodies delivered in lead guitar is the exclusive idea of the album. There is no other substance here; that outer layer of sugar which cloaks the internal lack of any material is what this entire thing is. Viking metal? Hahahahahaha. Never before has the legacy of the Vikings been so thoroughly desecrated. This is melodic folk metal at its most wimpish.
The execution is also anything but a warrior's conduct. The production is polished and lifeless like any other album of this day. The drum programming has no thought put into: totally bland constant beats. The bass is mostly inaudible, and the keyboards are mostly in the background, having a standard sugary tone when they do temporarily assume the role of a lead instrument. Rhythm guitars are really true to their basic role: just shutting up, not playing any riff worth anyone's while, and letting the lead guitar fuck up everything with its reprehensible melodies that even a 5-year old will find to be a childish mockery of the Vikings. Harsh vocals are standard black metal vocals devoid of any characteristic, minus the aggression and hatred that an average black metal vocalist would possess to any small extent, while clean vocals are ball-less generic folk chants. Cyclic songs are extended way beyond what substance each song has to offer (if there is any), pointlessly wandering just for the sake of being epic in length, when they are simple in structure. The execution is simply this: mediocre and cowardly.
At least musicians like Ihashn had the courage to relentlessly pursue their mission of creating the worst possible sound. Valfar lacks even that breed of abominable courage; with an idea twice as terrible as Ihsahn's he actually fails at creating something half as offensive, simply because he plays everything so safely. While Arntor is still offensive, the offense is dealt with such a weak force. As a result, the predominant feeling toward this record is contempt, rather than hate.
"The man stood on a small hill, surrounded by grass fields, rocks and some small trees. Holding a sword in his both hands, he looked to the horizon. He looked for adventures that have yet to come, but surely will come. He had no name, people just called him Warrior. Whenever he travelled from village to village, he offered his warrior skills in turn for food, drinks and a clean bed. He had tortured many evil, and rescued many people. It was his living, yet it felt like it was his destiny. It was his destiny to go down in history as The Warrior."
To start from the beginning, Windir isn’t your casual black metal. Windir consist of high lead guitars, epic songs and lyrics based on mythology. Of course the screaming vocals, blast beats and highly non-commercial sound are present, but it really sounds unique among other black metal bands.
This band, on this album, is purely the dream of a mastermind named Valfar. A Norway civilian doing all the instruments with the exception of the clean vocals and the drumming. His intentions were to create a black metal band that didn’t fulfil to the stereotypical descriptions that almost every black metal band fulfilled to. The guitar riffs on this album sound very powerful, yet never it sounds too happy or cheesy. Vocals sound as several black metal bands sound, yet much less aggressive, more laid back.
The music sounds epic, no questions about it. When Byrjing starts, it’s clear to anyone. Although this song features only as an intro of the album, it’s over 3 minutes long. The songs itself don’t feature many guitar riffs. Most of the time, a song is based on 4 different riffs with a neo-classical lead guitar above it. However, Songs such as Svartesmeden Og Lundamyrstrollet and Saknet, both clocking over 9 minutes, keep changing within several seconds. The same way how a sludge metal band works. The riff stays the same, but the other ways to differ every single riff, such as different instruments, heaviness or harmonizing are used very on a very effective way. On this way, Windir creates one of the most epic sounds that is ever heard.
Arntor is an album consisting only of classics, good instrumentation and superb songwriting. There are practically no flaws to be found on this album. Yet it is not a classic. Although Arntor, Ein Windir and Svartesmeden Og Lundamyrstrollet are probably one of the best black metal songs that has ever seen the daylight, other songs are not always as appealing. Kampen and Ending are both excellent tracks, but no more than that. It doesn’t fulfil to the classic feeling other tracks have.
All this together, plus the minor details, such as the good lyrics, atmospheric production and the emotion, makes this album one of the minor pinnacle of the black metal scene. However, if you are looking for some normal satanic black metal, be warned. This band sounds nothing like other black metal bands. It’s an unique album, made by an unique band.
Top 3 tracks
1. Svartesmeden Og Lundamyrstrollet
3. Arntor, Ein Windir
This review was originially written on www.sputnikmusic.com under the name TheHamburgerman
Despite what many people would say, I do not believe this is Windir's crowning achievement. I would say that would have to go to one of their later sounds, either 1184 or Likferd.
Valfar was a very talented musician. Although he did not play all the instruments on this album, this album was composed entirely by him. For many (including myself) this album started the whole fandom of Windir, as all of their previous releases before this are highly inaccessible. It is easy to see how this album got most Windir fans. The album contains very fast complex songs, likewise with the drumming and all other musical elements on this album (for instance the synths). However, there are no real easy listening/intermission parts on any songs on this album. However, the album contains Windir's only easy listening song: The Beginning.
Throughout the entire album, the album switches from both excellent to just good songs. For instance, Arntor was an excellent song but then the album progresses to Kong Hydnes Haug, which is only a good song and so on. This is why I do not believe that this album is the jewel in the crown of Windir's achievement; nevertheless, however, it is a solid piece of black metal.
The vocals here are slightly more high-pitched (both clean and black metal wise), probably because Valfar was younger on this recording. This album has more clean vocals than any other Windir release I have heard. This may or may not be a good thing for you, depending on how much you like clean vocals. This album is about 60% black metal vocals and 40% clean vocals. Unlike their later albums, which were more like 85% black metal vocals as to 15%, clean vocals.
It really was a shame that Valfar died at such a young age. He really had a lot of potential and in my opinion, was yet to reach his creative prime. If he had or not, we will never know, but what we do know is that he left behind a great musical legacy. Personally, I think the guys from Windir should have contacted Vratyas Vakyas, the guy from Falkenbach to fill in for Valfar, as he plays a very similar type of music to Windir. He certainly would not put Valfar to shame. To any who is new to Windir, I would suggest you get yourself a copy of this.
Conclusion: The above is recommended for purchase. If, it is however, your first Windir album, I suggest you download it.
ASIDE: You could be forgiven for thinking this is a concept album, as there is an intro song called "The Beginning" and a song at the conclusion called "Ending". Furthermore, there are two songs on the album Kampen (The Struggle) and Saknet (the longing), which seem to be related. However, this is not the case."
Windir is a band that was created by Sognadal native Terje “Valfar” Bakken, a young man that played multiple musical instruments (guitar, piano, and accordion to name a few) and loved the timeless art of metal. He created Windir to play Black Metal that was heavily influenced by his pride in local folk music. Valfar also had pride in his local culture and language; lyrics from his first two albums are all about Sognadal’s (Valfar’s hometown) local history and sung in Sognamål, or a Norwegian dialect that is spoken in Sognadal. Through out his musical career he created a total of four LPs (His first two being completely played and compiled by himself) until his untimely death on January 14, 2004. The stranded band members (all from the now defunct Ulcus) ended Windir’s legacy with Valfar releasing one more album (Valfar, ein Windir) in tribute to the band’s fallen leader.
Arntor, the sophomore release of Windir (Valfar’s last solo album) and is in my opinion the perfect album. Why do I say this? The imagery Valfar makes in each song is spectacular, the craftsmanship of the instruments played is superb and every song on this album has identity.
From the intro of Byrjing to Arntor, ein Windir and ending at (you guessed it!) Ending, every song is a fresh breath of breath air that never gets stale. The guitars on this album are superb; actually superb doesn’t begin to explain how good the guitars are. They have the distortion of black metal but the riffs are all pure Norwegian folk. The strings echo a hollowed dream of a marriage between Metal and Folk, a dream that bands previous to Windir only began to perfect. The synths (also superb) add a folk element that creates an atmosphere of Norway; an image that makes you feel like you are walking through the forests, climbing the steep mountains, or sailing in the deep fjords of the North Land. All combined creates a haunting memory of an age where long ships and swords were still in wide use, and men were judged by their honor.
If you are a fan of metal: THIS IS A MUST BUY! Especially if you enjoy Black Metal or you are a fan of bands like Ensiferum, Thyrfing, Finntroll, or Falkenbach. This album is so good that I can’t pick a favorite song; I can only see Arntor as a whole.
This album is paramount to any collection!
Valfar (RIP) was a young man when he died, only 25. That was in 2004. This album was written and released in 1999, making Terje "Valfar" Bakken only 19.
Take into account his age, the fact he wrote all this himself, produced this all himself, did EVERYTHING by himself, AT AGE 19! This album is the work of genius, if by some strange twist of fate you liked Viking/Black/Folk and you've never heard of Windir, and so happen to stumble across this album, you would think it was done by a veteren in the game. What Windir really accomplishes is a sense of atmosphere. This atmosphere is apparent right from the opening track. A instrumental harkening back to the old country, a steady accordian with a folk tune. With this however you don't know what to expect. Once the second track hit you immediately feel the folk and viking energy again, yet the drums get amped up with double bass and blast beats in an instant creating this beautiful, yet crushing soundscape. The riffs throughout the entire album stay folkish, sometimes teetering on the black metal style riffing, although there is no sense of thrash here.
Some of the more notable tracks, if one can narrow such thing down would have to be Svartesmeden Og Lundamyrstrollet, and Saknet.
Both of these songs clock in over 9 minutes. Both have multiple sections and different choruses to help carry the music as to not bore you. Its almost progressive by definition, but without the progressive sound. Windir can change the pace and sound perfectly and illustrates that in these two songs. Saknet in particular speak volumes of the artistic vision of Valfar. From the opening riff and bblast beat this song has a sense of epicness and granduer many Viking and Folk acts fail to create. As soon as the screechy vocals of Valfars amazing vocals hit the song is in a state of perfection. You find yourself nodding, tapping, whatever you can do to keep pace. The song really takes a chilling downtempo at the around the 6:20 mark, where haunting keys and bass kick in. A choir (This choir is amazing, best in any folk or viking act Ive ever heard), and it agains fades at the 7:30 mark to take you for a minute of the most emotional filled music to touch these ears. This solo was beautifully written and performed by Windir. The last minute or so brings it back to where you first were in the begining but this time with the haunting melody present in the middle of the song. The song closes out eventually with just this melody. Sheer genius.
One tihng I neglected to mention was the vocals and lyrical theme. I did mention the vocals once, but that doe not give them justice since there's a lot of choir and different vocal approaches taken here. Valfar outdoes himself in this reguard. My favorite thing about this album, music aside is lyrical content. With all the whiney little teens out there today, Valfar did something that meant a lot to him and his countrymen. Singing about his countries folklore and history, in a lost native language. This I can respect. Even within metal most sing about gore, satan and all that crap. But Windirs lyrical content stays coarse.
If you have the oppertunity to buy this album or listen to it, its a must. It's one of the best from the genre, and in many peoples eyes one of the best ever.
The now defunct Sogndal band Windir was (almost) a one-man act at the time of this recording, but who can tell by listening to this album? Valfar does a truly great job composing, arranging and performing. All of the songs have their own brilliance, and I certainly can't find (m)any flaws here.
Byrjing/Arntor - the accordion intro is an excellent start to this album. Valfar, being a former accordion master (hehe), sets the tone. The transition over to Arntor is flawless and brilliant. And what is there to say about Arntor, ein Windir? Quite simply THE integral song in the Windir discography. From this song the web of Arntor, King Sverre and Battle of Fimreite gets spun over the next albums. The scream at 6:18 is one of the best I've heard. Extremely passionate, and even more so in a live setting.
Kong Hydnes Haug - This track is overlooked by many, but I really can't see why. Lots of great riffs, and the usual Windir blend of calm parts and agression.
Svartasmeden og Lundamyrstrodlet - Another Windir classic that just grows on every listening. By some reckoned to be the very best Windir song. I have it at #2. The part that starts at approx 6:16 is possibly the most beautiful piece of music Valfar wrote.
Kampen - My least favourite track on the album. Not to say it's poor in any way, it just gets wedged in between the two greatest Windir tracks ever. Tough luck... :) The lyrics deal with keeping the small town mentality and local dialect, and not get influenced by city folk. Certainly a subject that strikes close to my heart.
Saknet - As Valfar himself said: "When hear this song I just want to find my shotgun and shoot myself, and I hope you feel the same way too." Amen. The lyrics are brilliant, the guitar melodies are brilliant, and it's all so very depressive and sad, yet partially fast-paced. The mix of clean and black vocals at 4:20, and that is repeated a couple more times, are so perfectly done it almost pains me to listen to. And what about the guitar that kicks in just before the 8:00 mark, and chirps on for the next 50 seconds? Perfection.
Ending - A relatively straightforward blackish cover of a Norwegian folk tune, but with personalised (and unpublished) lyrics. Excellent closer.
I have no choice but to give this album a score of 100%. Saknet, Arntor and Svartasmeden pretty much guarantees that score on their own. The rest is also very, very good.