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"Hammerheart" has born a son - 95%

MahaDoom, December 4th, 2008

This must be my “Record of the Year 2008”!! I'm surprised how much Heavy Metal from Sweden dominated this year, since the other record I'd have to state is Grand Magus "Iron Will"! And I feel somewhat ashamed to give such a low note compared to the other review here...

I think I had seen this album as part of an add by their record company and did not pay it any attention, less than some of their fellow releases next to them. And then I had already forgotten about it. Comes the day in August 2008, a hot and humid day, a condition which didn’t come as a surprise since I was in Bangkok. I was sitting in my room, working on my graduation thesis when my metal brother Kappe send me files of this whole album telling me how much he loved it and that he’d be totally sure I’d love it, too. And damn right he was!

This is the project of the guitarists of Swedish Epic Doom Masters Isole, however, it’s much older than their main band and several of their ex-bands. And ‘project’ sounds a bit unimportant while it becomes plain obvious that this band is a product of their hearts even though they might not spent that much time with it. After lying on ice (“Lost in this hell of ice”, as it says in the song “Winter Wonderland”) for many years that had only been predated by a time of not really getting started, they gave it another hit in the second half of the decade with a demo and then finally this album.

If you want to describe what this is all about, you actually need only one word, and that’s Bathory! Oh, not quite correct, cause you have to be more precise and limit it on the epic Bathory. Yes, it’s the albums “Hammerheart” and “Twilight of the Gods” which Ereb Altor have in their hearts and pay tribute to. It is very easy to draw this comparison, everybody does it, but I guess that’s no problem, the band probably don’t want to be original. Because they don’t fucking need to! Bathory is no more, may Quorthon rest in peace. And since no other band managed to substitute Bathory, it’s just right for Ereb Altor to do so. There are a some other bands in this style who have great albums, but to me Ereb Altor are the perfect heir to Bathory! But before you think this is totally interchangeable with the great ancestors, I want to stress that Ereb Altor can of course be recognized as Ereb Altor! The production is more modern, the sound is fatter, it got more of a doom album than Bathory has, and the vocals are much better. Well, as far as the ability to sing is concerned at least. Like they state themselves, they technically might be better singers, but the expression of Quorthon’s singing and how he puts all his heart into it, this is for nobody to match!

This is only the debut album and so it’s totally acceptable that there are a few minor weaknesses that might be improved for the second album, which hopefully will come some day. Unforetunately, the record just starts with one of them, the piano intro. The sound is ok and it got a nice atmosphere, but it’s too loud in the mix and it’s not very impressive, a bit boring I’d say. If it was the guitar playing, you’d just say it’s no good riff. But it’s not shit either and passes soon, so you will live through it. Then we have the sound of the whole album. This is one thing that didn’t occur to me till I was back from Bangkok and bought the cd. All in all it’s a great sound, but it could be a bit more natural, especially the drums, and yes, it really could be a bit less hifi! I really liked it more when I listened to it through the shitty speakers of my laptop as compared to now when I listen to the cd in my stereo. It doesn’t need to be as shitty recorded as the old Bathory classics, but a bit less perfect sounding might add to the flavour. And finally the song “Wizard”. It could be the masterpiece of the album, but I don’t like the palm-muted stopped-notes-riff in the middle of the song. It does not fit, it destroys the flow and atmosphere of the song…or at least it’s some temporary toothache since it of course does not destroy the whole song, it’s still an amazing song!! All these details are little devils that let me think there is a chance of the next album becoming even better. It will be terribly hard cause this debut is so fucking great, it’s unbelievable!!

So there’s me sitting somewhere in the city of angels, right in the hot and humid subtropics, with the plan to spend the weekend at the beach under palms and with smaragd green water at my front door…listening to Epic Viking Doom Heavy Metal! The humidity mixes with coldness, all the people disappear, the landscape turns into a winter desert, and somewhere out on the sea there’s a couple of Viking warriors meeting in battle, while I alone roam the isolated vastness of this land of ice. This is “Winter Wonderland”, another highlight of an album that has nothing else but highlights! But don’t misinterpret this coldness to be uncomforting like you find it in Black Metal. This is full of beauty, actually it’s rather the early days of spring when life begins and the ice is melting away. It’s the fresh and clean water of small rivers flowing through majestic mountains and then become bigger and bigger to cross huge woods. And even though my actual surroundings were so unfitting the music still managed to bring me into this other world. I listened to it many times, sometimes turn after turn and really didn’t feel like I was sitting in Thailand. And once when I had just started to play it again, it began to rain so strongly, yeah, it was apocalypse now!

Of course I had to buy the original cd as soon as I was back, but I’d really love to hold this in my hands as a gatefold cover double-lp, maybe some hisses from the vinyl while listening to the acoustic parts, ah, it’s alive!! And then in some years I want the second album. No rush guys, take your time, music like this is timeless and we don’t need many records to flow the market, we just want a true gem every once in a while. And if it’s records like this then all the waiting is totally worth it!!

If you are into Epic Heavy Metal there is no way for you not to own this album!!!

Magnificent masterpiece! - 100%

black_embrace, August 19th, 2008

Some pretend that there exist as many Metal Genres as Metal bands. Well, that might not be true, but fact is that there are always new sub-genres being invented by audacious musicians bringing fresh wind to the scene.

Ereb Altor, for their part, propose us Viking Doom Metal. These guys created a blend of later Bathory and Candlemass, and the result is incredibly epic and majestic. The heavy guitars riffs crawl throughout the album like a drakkar navigating with effort in northern seas. The clean, epic, vocals, fit perfectly to the music. The whole can clearly be compared to Nordland I & II from Bathory, but By Honour is by no means a simple copycat of those Viking Metal classics.

The Doom Metal is omnipresent in this release. The riffs are much slower, more viscous, than any other Viking Metal album I have heard so far, and that makes the music of Ereb Altor so unique. Thus, both fans of Viking and Doom Metal are likely to love this album. For my part, being into both genres, I can only warmly recommend you this band. To convince you, just have a look at the band’s MySpace page and listen to the song “Awakening”.