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Despite Valfars decision of taking in five new members to his band, the sound of the band have not changed THAT much since Arntor. Likferd is a much darker album though, and it's pretty ironic with the title also, it is a bit like it could have haunted that poor man. There is much more black metal influence in the heavy riffs, but there are also the well-known guitar melodies, just feeling more dark and sorrowful while keyboard have been added to the album to help create more atmosphere.
The use of folk instruments on the album is still limited to accordion, which Valfar only uses in the song "Fagning", and only for about twenty seconds as a part of the intro part. The guitar is still the main instruments when it comes to putting the folk-influence in the music, while the synths can pop in at times such as in "Blodssvik" where the heavy music stops only to make space to some dark, but beautiful atmosphere, the album cover fits well for that picture I am having in my head, the heavy guitar kicks in, before letting the synths go on with some electronica sounds even, but it sounds really great though.
The mood and atmosphere of the album is dark and sorrowful as mentioned earlier. The title and picture describes it well, "Burial". The songs are varied and memorable, having their own story in the music, you don't need to listen to the lyrics, especially because those in Sognamål might be hard to understand.. And Valfars vocals are harsh as always. It's pretty hard to hear what he's singing without reading the lyrics. Throughout the whole experience the vocals doesn't really get away from the typical black metal voice, a bit less-shrieky than usual black metal. At times, Cosmocrators clean vocals are being put in, and they are stronger than the clean vocals on Arntor for instance. They are beautiful and fits the music nicely. They are not being used too much either and helps the album getting even better.
The production of the album is kinda thick, but still good. It can't be compared to black metal releases at all. The sound is a bit heavy, the drumming are put below the guitar and bass, the bass not being heard very often, but there are some really really good basslines, like in "Fagning" along the previous mentioned accordion, where the guitar is not present. The drumming buy Steingrim is decent, I must admit that his drumming has never really been anything special at all, it's decent, but nothing new. On this record there is a lot of blast beats being used, though. But again, the drumming is put a bit away and is not really anything you put much attention to throughout the album.
Sture and Strom are a brilliant guitar duo putting out good black metal riffs and with some high note playing along, which is a Windir "trademark", solos are also being played between verses as in "Blodssvik". So they are definitely the highlight the album. But I'd say that all the music put together creates a great great atmosphere and everyone is doing their job very well.
There are more blackish songs, such as "Despot" and "On the Mountain of Goats", where the high note playing is not very present and the tempo is much faster than usual, riffing wise. I consider "On the Mountain of Goats" the worst song on the album, it's fast riffing and decent vocals. I always skip it to be honest. But it's the only bad thing on the album. Despot has more use of synths at times, changing the songs tempo down. The riffing here is varied black metal riffing, and it's a good different song compared to the much high note playing.
All in all, this album is very very good! The best along Arntor I would say, it's a bit more blackish, but still very good. The use of synths and guitar melodies here is top notch and the atmosphere is dark, in both an evil way but also a very sorrowful way. Likferd was a nice "ending" album from Valfar. If you are into something different black metal, try out it out, if you are a Windir fan, get it!
Rest in peace, Valfar.
Valfar’s last battle has been the one he fought against the storm on that tragic day of January 2004 – but that one, he lost it. Couldn’t it then look bitterly ironical that what ended up being the last Windir album had been entitled Likferd (burial)? Just as if Valfar had foreseen almost twelve months before the events of 2004 there wouldn’t be another one, ever.
Of course Likferd isn’t another 1184, what doesn’t mean it’s weaker, but simply a bit less accessible to the layman. No more accordions, less synths and keyboards, a more discrete presence of Cosmocrator and his “epic” clean vocals, a return to a majority of tracks sung in Norwegian: everything sounds as if Valfar had been afraid to lean towards a more commercial approach of Viking metal and was wishing to return to his more black-ish roots. However a more in-depth look would quickly reveal it’s far from being the case, as for instance on the four Windir albums this one is probably exhibiting the cleanest production; what of course doesn’t mean it sounds crystal-clear but simply denser, deeper – and better. The bass resounds, vocals as well as drums are mixed a tad down when compared to 1184, what isn’t unpleasant as it enables the listener to concentrate on the superb, both thick and raspy guitars which most of time occupy the front of the scene. And of course the crowning catchy touch is added by both the cold-as-ice backing orchestral keyboards, and Cosmocrator’s exalted clean chant which might sound ridicule and over-the-top to some, but has been nonetheless an essential component of Windir’s latest sound.
All of the above wouldn’t however suffice to make a great album if the songwriting wouldn’t follow. Granted, there’s undoubtedly a couple of easy songs here, and that may be the only reason why I’d rank Likferd a tiny step below its predecessor. The opening track especially, though being the standard Windir high-paced raging anthem fully fulfilling his quota of screams and blastbeats, doesn’t bring anything revolutionary, and in any case doesn’t live up to the following tunes. In the same genre the third track Despot simply works better with its huge epic break going on par with more subtle bridges. The same could be said about Blodssvik: coming right after Despot, it looks a tad pale.
Because Valfar isn’t ever as good as when he flirts with epic extravagance, I’d quote as evidence the long and complex Fagning and Aetti Mørkna where he’s eventually able to display all his genius both as a composer and a musician. Fagning especially can easily stand for the best track with its storming intro, majestic ending and heavily guitar-driven verses balanced by both softer and faster, more keyboard-oriented breaks. Everything being topped by an important part devoted to lead guitars, which once again shows the Windir guys not only knew how to perfectly build a grandiose atmosphere devoid of any cheese or pomp, but also how to play their instruments.
Not to say the only worthwhile tracks are the longest. Paradoxically what is by far the simplest track of all is also one of the best: Martyrium will be probably rendered immortal by its unforgettable lead melody and neverending double bass which blend into an epic breath which would incite even an 80-years-old bed-ridden to rise and go to battle. Less catchy at first glance and more subtle, On the Mountain of Goats is remarkable for its slow, freezing middle part, maybe the most BM-influenced of the whole album. Eventually Dauden is the shortest but certainly not the less lively tune here, in any case maybe the most reminding of 1184 – even if it lacks the accordion.
Valfar’s death may have been a great loss to every black/Viking metal lover. However, first the way he died hasn’t been unworthy of a true Viking warrior, secondly (and more importantly) he died at the pinnacle of his glory, after having released what will probably remain another Viking classic for years. One is all but sure the hypothetic following albums would have been equally strong; so like the old man on the left of the cover let’s just take a posture of sad, but quiet, resignation.
Highlights: Martyrium, Despot, Fagning, Aetti Mørkna
This is my favorite Windir album, showcasing all the elements that made this band great. Is this Melodic Black Metal? Black Metal with melodic tendencies? Whatever it is, it’s good.
The album begins spooky and explosive, with a well rounded, full sound. I don’t know why, but a lot of Black Metal sounds tinny. Too much treble in the mix. Windir brings up the bass and drums, and adds a touch of reverb to the guitar parts. It all adds up to a great sounding album.
Some Black Metal acts use the keyboards primarily for melody, while others use them for mood. Windir doesn’t seem to rely on the keyboards for anything in particular, but rather uses them as part of the band. It’s not just a background instrument, in other words. ‘Blosdssvik’ for example contains a weird-ass keyboard interlude, while it shows up in ‘On the Mountain of Goats’ in the form of an evil sounding intro.
The rest of ‘On the Mountain of Goats’ sounds a bit experimental in parts, changing up between almost pure Black to traditional Heavy Metal. Can’t say it’s my favorite, but it sure sounds interesting.
The vocals are almost completely traditional Black Metal from beginning to end, but choral elements show up now and again. RIP Terje Bakken, good vocalists are hard to find. The most purely Black Metal track on the album is probably ‘Despot’. Reminds me a lot of ‘Hail Murder’ by Dark Funeral.
The standout track on Likferd is ‘Fagning’. This is a monumental centerpiece to an already great album. Over 8 minutes in length, it contains everything you could want from Windir. Roaring vocals, clean choral bits, guitar harmonization, galloping bass/drum rhythm overlaid by a fantastic folksy solo guitar… It blows me away. Not a second is wasted.
The final track ‘Ætti Mørkna’ serves as a sweeping, triumphant closer. Also quite a long track (not quite 8 minutes), and it could be longer. It could go on all day and I wouldn’t mind.
For any fan of melodic extreme metal ought to enjoy this. Also go check out Vreid, which is where most of the guys ended up after the death of their vocalist.
Because of the high replay value, and the fact that all the tracks are outstanding (well, 'Goats' puts me off a bit) I give this album a high score.