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Ferocious, Ravenous, Diverse - 88%

hardalbumreview, April 13th, 2019

There are many up-and-coming bands within melodic death metal, which happens to be one of my favorite genres, who, at best, can mimic the mediocre works of other giants, fading immediately from the memory of the listener and failing to etch their mark. However, this claim couldn’t be any further from the truth in case of Brymir. This very young yet prodigious Finnish quintet, hailing from Helsinki since 2011, took me by surprise, honestly.

What created said effect was, first and foremost, the quality of musicianship. All the members put to display the excellence in handling their instruments. Patrik Fält behind the drum set, Joona Björkroth and Sean Haslam on guitar and Viktor Gullichsen behind the mic have performed splendidly; but what stands atop other features is the orchestration and the arrangement of the songs, also provided by Viktor Gullichsen, which has given a bone-crushingly heavy, yet melodic and accessible sound to this album. Most tracks are epic and grand, like Ride on, Spirit, sometimes even owing to the full orchestration, e.g. Vanquish the Night, and they succeed at leaving a lasting influence.

The song patterns are almost identical, most of them start with an intro, soar to a towering pinnacle, solo kicks in somewhere juxtaposing a break, then comes the conclusion. This similarity in song structure, however, is amended and revamped by blending genres and making use of elements, here and there, of other metal forms: Sphere of Halcyon is an orchestral blackened death, Wings of Fire is power metal with the use of electronic sounds, Chasing the Skyline is neofolk turned melodeath and Starportal is modern metal, just to name a few examples of this technique.

Even within songs we often see a diverse array of sounds: an acoustic guitar intro then meets full blast drumming alongside keyboards followed by a heavy, melodic guitar riff and just as the ears are tuned to that, the break grabs your attention and the orchestral sound lifts your soul. You don’t need to look any further than Ride on, Spirit or Lament of the Ravenous to feel this multiplicity of sounds.

This album has not only musical but also topical variety. An assortment of subject matters, from dethroning idols and kings (Gloria in Regum) to a eulogy to an unknown ancient bard whose songs shall forever linger in the hearts of humankind (Ride on, Spirit – have I established by now that this is my favorite song of the album?!), to aging - yes even aging - (And so We Age) to leading a serene life in the heart of turbulence (Sphere of Halcyon), and some more have made their way into this album. Even a mention of Odin’s two well-known companions (read ravens) Hugin and Munin on Lament of the Ravenous helped them touch upon their fascination with folk and pagan issues, as was the case with their two previous releases.

So overall, this album was the best of melodic death metal so far this year. True it wasn’t melodeath in its purest form; it was, nonetheless, a display of high standards of musicianship and production, pummeling its way through to my list of top 10 of 2019 so far.

Highlights: Sphere of Halcyon - Ride on, Spirit - Vanquish the Night - Wings of Fire - Hails from the Edge - Starportal

Lyrics: 8.5
Artwork: 8.0
Musicianship: 9.5
Vocals: 9.0
Overall: 8.8

Heavenly Fire - 91%

MeatWolf, April 2nd, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Victor (Japan)

The easy stride of a wary spring breeze awaking after a long winter, the transparence of a thinnest silk veil, the swiftness of a lightning strike, splitting the black sky — the Finnish metal bands definitely have those unique cultural patterns which immutably affect their sound and make me fall for their music time and again. Here’s another example of that. Brymir, started in 2006 under a saying-it-all moniker Lai Lai Hei, at first a symphonic Ensiferum/Turisas-like thing which I spotted back in the promising Breathe Fire to the Sun era. Slayer of Gods which arrived after a long silence in 2016 trampled all those hopes without mercy, being a rough piece of coarse mediocrity at best. After that I all but forgot about them — before I heard the first previews from their third output, Wings of Fire.

It seems to be the same band, the same symphonic melodeath recipe but the familiar shape is imbued with a brand new content. The main reason for this album to stand apart so much would be the spectacular orchestrations done by band’s singer, Viktor Gullichsen who already tried this role on Slayer of Gods. By the second album of practice this guy has mastered the art of creating subtle, profound, thorough and diverse soundscapes ranging from countless symphonic decorations to synths and insanely clever electronics like in Wings of Fire or Hails from the Edge, fine representations of sudden modern melodeath twists. A steady enrichment and illumination of the metal core, a great contrast to ‘strings, stings, strings ad nauseam’ which is what you can usually find on an album of this genre. In fact the orchestrations are of ‘centerpiece of the record’ quality and pull some otherwise-would-have-been-merely-good tracks on an incredible heights, mesmerizing you and making you explore all the nuances over and over, for the refinement level is beyond limits. Add here the overwhelming, colossal choirs made of half a hundred vocal tracks, done by Viktor and band’s axeman Joona Björkroth — that would be the very thing.

The guitar picture is drawn in the best possible way: tasty, airy, stirring, dynamic riffs with no flaccidity or staleness in sight, can’t compare it with the previous record or even with the decent debut. The leads are brilliant and usually uplifting, especially when it comes to the solos, some of which contain the best melodies this album can offer. Even the plain shredding in Hails from the Edge is extremely delicious, what to speak of the elegance like in Lament of the Ravenous which makes you shed some tears almost literally with its bittersweet tragic mood.

The instruments are perfectly balanced (Finnish style, again) — one more reason for the album to be this good. The guitars are seamlessly blended with the orchestrations, neither being pushed too forward nor buried in the background, still carving each riff with utmost precision, an almost impeccable sound synthesis, with crystal clear production giving room to all the pieces of the puzzle.

The songwriting is nothing short of fabulous, some songs being jaw-dropping bombshells. Particularly worth of mention are the blastbeat hurricane of Ride On, Spirit, vibrantly anthemic And So We Age, up-through-the-roof ultra epic Lament of the Ravenous and sci-fi synth-fused, almost MyGrain-like Wings of Fire. There is also a handful of ominous, rough tracks (Strarportal, Sphere of Halcyon, Hails from the Edge and Vanquish the Night), still however rich with a wide array of arrangements. As explained by Viktor in a recent interview, at least some of them are old material, which only leaves a great anticipation for what is to come on the next record.

Of all the above one can by now already figure out what it resembles: the glorious sophomore Wintersun record. All the previous attempts to even somehow approach the level of Time I (be it intentionally or otherwise) performed by Euphoreon, Frosttide, Whispered, Far Beyond, Stormtide and others were nothing but birds striving to reach the skies. Now these guys have finally almost squared this circle and created that very music of inner beauty, music of subtle vibrations, music of heavenly fire that only the few can ever bring to our reality. Considering the fact Gullichsen wrote more than 90% of the album, composed all the orchestrations and also did the production, recording, engineering and mixing, the spirit of He Who Thou Shalt Not Take The Näääme of In Vain becomes almost tangible.

Maybe I’m giving this album too much of a praise, and it’s pretty possible it will go under the radar even of this subgenre’s scene but it’s so close to that dear to my heart wintersun-eqsue ‘otherwordly blaze of light’ style that I can’t consider this record anything else but one of Finnish metal jewels.

Yet Another Hot Record - 86%

KanisMaximus, March 14th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Out of Line Music

I’ve said before (as I’m sure many others have) that melodic death metal is just extreme power metal with harsh vocals. Nowhere is this more apparent in Finnish outfit Brymir, whose rough vocals are the only thing holding it back from being outright power metal. The keyboards are many, the guitars are clean, and it’s epic as all hell. Axeman Joona Björkroth once again demonstrates his fearsome shredding skill (which is fortunate, because Battle Beast’s upcoming No More Hollywood Endings all but denied him the chance to play to his capabilities).

I must say, even if I try I can’t quite compare Brymir directly to anything else because of how blatantly unique it is. The closest band that I know of would probably be Wintersun, but even they aren’t very similar. So, in that department, Brymir scores serious points. However, even though each song is very dynamic, with booming highs to placid lows and everything in between, there’s a limited amount of variety among the song selection. That isn’t really an issue, though, because the songs are so fucking good.

Wings of Fire has a lot to offer for the power metal fan and extreme metal fan alike. The guitar melodies and solos are often uplifting and immensely impressive, but there’s no shortage of doom-inducing choirs and intense blast beats, as in ‘Sphere of Halcyon’ and ‘Ride on, Spirit’. Overall, there’s a fifty-fifty split between the symphonic and metal elements, which would make the music more accurately described as soundtrack metal than melodic death metal.

On a side note, one thought that I haven’t been able to shake is the fact that, aside from the vocals, pretty much every song sounds like a boss battle theme. Seriously, just try to tell me that you don’t notice it, too; all the orchestral parts and pounding drums make me feel like I’m about to get my ass handed to me in Dark Souls or something (yes, I know that there are no “pounding drums” in Dark Souls, but I digress).

There are few highlights for me on this record because it’s very much a team effort. That being said, the opener, ‘Gloria in Regum’, is my favourite track. It hits fast and hard, with chugging riffs and epic choirs, and the rhythm section shots are excellent. It also features Battle Beast’s Noora Louhimo (although you’d never notice her) and a wicked solo from Björkroth.

With three albums so far, Brymir has never failed to produce something individual and new. Wings of Fire is an exceptional piece of work, and its blend of electronics, death metal, and orchestras feels natural and allows a richly deep sound. This group has a bright future ahead and, if their next album is half as entertaining as this one, I eagerly await their next release.

Originally written for