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Windir’s career was an incredibly epic one, consisting of two demos and four albums, all of an incredibly high quality. This quality is primarily due to the band’s mastermind, Valfar, whose tragic death in a blizzard in 2004 ended Windir. However, his comrades and friends made a final, massive effort in his memory and thus was born this magnificent 2CD compilation album: Valfar, ein Windir: Valfar, a Warrior.
The first portion of the first CD consists of two newly-recorded tracks: the brief intro Stri, and the 6-minute Viking metal masterpiece Stridsmann. These are the last original Windir recordings, released posthumously, and they’re a worthy ending to an excellent band’s existence. This part is followed by a brief section of re-recorded songs, the first of which was an instrumental originally found on the band’s first demo and the other one being a cover of Ulcus (a closely associated black metal band). Both these tracks are very high quality numbers, but different: the former’s an instrumental track and the latter is a Windir-done symphonic black metal cover, adding more variation to this whole compilation.
The second major part of this recording is probably the most interesting from a musical point of view: five Windir covers by a very varied group of artists. First comes Enslaved’s rendition of Dauden, and it’s an unforgettable number. This is truly one of those events where the talents of two great metal bands are combined in one single song (Enslaved’s performance with Windir’s songwriting) and the result is amazing. Grutle does an awesome vocal job, both clean and growled, and the rest of the band’s performance is flawless, adding a slight Enslaved atmosphere to it all. Unfortunately, this transposition of the covering band’s sound works in the exact opposite way with the cover of Ending: Finntroll does it. Here, the original Windir sound is superseded by the trademark Finntroll retardation. Excessive keyboards and troll-imitation vocals, along with that dumb “folk jumping around” effect, all work together to make this a hell of a lot less intelligent than the original. Still, it’s a Windir song and even someone like Finntroll can’t make it unlistenable; besides, the tribute effort was highly commendable, it’s just that I’d have given a lot to see them replaced by, say, Moonsorrow.
The third cover is by far the most surprising. It’s a rendition of Mørkets Fyrste by Norwegian electro/techno artist E-Head. Here, a Windir song is turned into electronic dance music! It may sound very lame, but it’s actually pretty fucking awesome. Imagine clubbing on some Windir; the idea is wicked and it would definitely work if someone actually applied it. This gets the award for most original cover and most curious tribute ever; everything is made industrial except for a faint and monotonous chanting voice that makes everything just a little bit more epic. After it comes a cover of Destroy by the Notodden All Stars, and this is basically a (more) extreme metal version of the original, with an added death metal side to it. The removal of the awesome keyboard sections and the general generic atmosphere of it all make this the blandest of the covers. However, this is where what can possibly be called the very best cover in the history of music occurs. It’s the song Likbør, performed by Norwegian acoustic rock artist Weh. The transformation of the already great original from a metal song into an acoustic rock one, with the brilliant soft guitars and the very clean vocals, along with that utterly perfect mid-song instrumental section, means that this is the absolute highlight of the compilation. I salute Weh, his incredibly high quality cover and the timeless tribute to Valfar that it signifies. Excellent work!
The final two tracks of the first CD are original Windir live recordings from 2003, with Valfar on vocals as it should be. Both songs are performed extremely well; the music is exactly as it should be and even from the recording, one can hear that Windir is one of those live bands whose performance adds a new level of excellence to the sound. The only main live particularity lies with Valfar’s harsh vocals: here he does a much darker, more evil sounding rasp than on the studio versions of these songs. The perfect rendition of the highly melodic middle of Svartesmeden Og Lundamyrstrollet is probably the greatest moment of this relatively brief section.
The second CD consists of the standard Windir compilation: a series of studio-version songs picked directly from the various albums and demos created in the band’s all-too-short career. It begins with the hauntingly beautiful Soge II (Framkomsten) keyboard instrumental as an intro, then proceeds to blast Windir music for about 75 minutes. One nice aspect about the compilation is that the track listing is in chronological order; I.E., the earlier a song is in the band’s discography, the earlier it appears on the compilation. Thus the first metal song is Krigaren Si Gravferd, off the Det Gamle Riket demo, while the albums each get a few songs after. The Windir essentials are basically all there and what isn’t there was covered on the first disc (such as Likbør): Sognariket Sine Krigarar, Arntor, ein Windir, Journey to the End, Martyrium, Fagning and Sóknardalar, among a great many other Windir songs.
Valfar, ein Windir is perhaps the best way to end a band’s career, especially one which ended on such a heart-breaking note. This is a tribute compilation of the absolute highest order, being extremely enjoyable from beginning to end. The sheer variety of different approaches to praise the work of Valfar, and the excellence of each of those approaches, is enough to make this compilation an inescapably essential recording for anyone, and I mean anyone, who calls himself a Windir fan, or a Viking metal fan for that matter. This is pure brilliance, and I’m certain that Valfar is extremely proud of the people involved in the creation of this compilation.