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Move along, nothing to see here... - 50%

Lord_Kiven, February 24th, 2008

In every genre, there's a handful of bands that write truly groundbreaking, innovative material. Behind them are bands that, while not being as groundbreaking or original as the first category, still put out material of consistent quality. Then, we have the rest, who are utterly content to follow the first two groups without adding anything of value, and are, for the most part, utterly forgettable.

If bands like Windir, Bathory, or Moonsorrow fit into the first category for Viking metal, then Einherjer fit squarely in the third. There's almost nothing on "Dragons of the North" that sounds particularly memorable or interesting. As another reviewer pointed out, the whole album feels like a shittier version of Windir; indeed, throughout my listening to this album, I kept thinking of how it sounded like "Arntor" without any of the speed, aggression, or passion, or pretty much anything that made "Arntor" such a great piece of work. But don't get me wrong, Dragons of the North isn't a "bad" album; there's nothing on here that made me want to rupture my eardrums with an icepick, but there's simply no reason for me to listen to this when I can find any album by Bathory or Windir that sounds ten times better. There's no sense of passion, and no sense that the band take their subject matter seriously.

Take, for example, the aforementioned "Arntor." Here was an album that wasn't just about Vikings looting and pillaging, but dealt with actual historical events. When I listen to the track "Arntor, Ein Windir" I can see myself standing by the fjords of Sogndal and actually seeing what's being sung about in the song taking place. Compare this to "Slaget Ved Harfsfjord" which, despite being about an actual historical battle, fails to conjure up any image but of a band in a recording studio, going through the motions. DOTN has no real atmosphere to speak of, and if you're looking for something stirring and epic, you won't find it.

The album opens with the title track, which is probably the best, despite the awful lyrics. It has a sort of rollicking, folkish feel to it, with a singer sounding like he's totally fucking wasted, and is the only song on the whole album that has any sort of feeling or passion to it. After this, however, the album goes downhill in a hurry, as Einherjer are content to repeat the same formula for every song - start with a series of annoying, repetitive, and simplistic riffs, and build the entire song around it. I lost track of the times where the song would repeat a series four or five of notes over and over, as if they couldn't find any other way to fill up that space. Consequently, every song feels at least twice as long as it should be, and they all sort of blend together into one big mass in the end. There's hardly any variation in tempo throughout the album; Einherjer remains strickly mid-paced for the whole affair. I soon got tired of every song feeling so damned SLOW, and I kept waiting for them to let loose with a faster-paced number, but it never happened.

In addition to the constant sameness throughout, DOTN never really seems to "go" anywhere as an album. It's rather hard to explain, but my favorite albums always had their most powerful track at the end, so when you had finished listening to it, you had a satisfied sense of closure. With DOTN, the album just sort of...ends. I'm guessing that the final track "Ballad of the Swords" is supposed to be the "epic closer" but it's such a snoozer of a song I barely noticed that the album was even finished.

But if there's one thing that really kills this album, it's the awful production. The overall sound is horribly tinny, with absolutely no low-end or heaviness to speak of. The backing guitars sound so hopelessly gutless that they might as well not even be there. The drums sound like someone hitting a desk with a pen and pencil; they have no kick or bite to them whatsoever. It's certainly not a good thing that an album so lacking in balls is further gutted by a tinny production job. Granted, you might say that Windir's debut Sóknardalr had bad production, but the sheer quality of the music was enough to overcome it. In Einherjer's case, the bad production simply makes a mediocre album sound worse.

In the end, there's no real reason to buy this album, as bands like Bathory or Windir do it far, far better. At least Einherjer had the good sense to recognize the limits of their abilities and call it quits after four albums.