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Captain without compass - 70%

Felix 1666, February 2nd, 2019
Written based on this version: 2005, CD, Napalm Records

"Heralding - The Fireblade" is no regular full-length, but a re-recording of older songs that are mixed with some previously unknown tracks. This fact alone makes it slightly difficult to describe the album as a whole. "...of Forests Unknown", for instance, is based upon some straight and fast-paced, double-bass driven verses, the voice conveys pure combativeness and every Christian camp near the Northern coasts is on red alert. A very strong number that pleasantly reminds the listener of some pretty harsh tracks from the debut. But don't think that this piece represents the complete material. Generally speaking, the compositions follow a relaxed and "skaldic" approach. Fast rhythms do not play a very prominent role and the vocals switch from clean to aggressive and back to clean. Each and every number has a sufficient substance, but I miss some furious moments. Especially "Hávamál" does not belong to the most adventurous tracks I have ever heard. Indeed, some parts of this patchwork don't work and deliver rather fatiguing sequences.

Okay, let's stay fair. The sixth track boasts, among other things, with fantastic guitar lines and explosive drums. It storms over the Northern sea like a natural force, doesn't it? Yes, but it has already been released on the debut. Even the opener is already well known, it appeared on the second full-length. To be honest, it remains a mystery, why the artist recorded these pieces once again. I admit that "Heathen Foray" (once titled "The Heathenish Foray") reveals its full potential for the first time. Falkenbach celebrate a majestic, mighty and triumphant epic and it would have been a great bonus track, no doubt about it. Nevertheless, I don't understand why it was chosen to kick off the album. Has the captain of the dragon boat lost the orientation? Either way, the dubiously compiled full-length has more in common with the (too) restrained "Ok nefna tysvar ty" than with the first two works and some almost shy compositions suffer from seemingly endless "ooohooohooo" or "a ha ha" vocal lines. Where is the rage of the Northmen? In my humble opinion, acoustic guitars are not the right vehicle to transport their archaic way of living.

Production-wise, "Heralding - The Fireblade" has no reason to fear any comparison. The album sounds warm yet powerful, robust and well-balanced. This and the fact that the lone wolf behind this project has a talent for great melody lines result in a decent work, even though some songs seem to be left unfinished. Especially the endings of a couple of tracks convey a surprisingly awkward approach. Nevertheless, once one has got used to the album, it's a pretty good soundtrack for a relaxed Sunday afternoon (or a Saturday without football). Falkenbach was and still is a force to be reckon with, because its outstanding artistic quality always shimmers through, even though it does not always shine in full glory on this output - and that's the reason why the rating does not exceed the 70% mark.

The shining golden armour of Vratyas Vakyas - 100%

Nihil Seitan, September 12th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2005, CD, Napalm Records (Digipak, Limited edition)

There have been huge waves of Viking-age-loving bands coming and passing through the last 30 years; so many of them fell to their end and were forgotten in oblivion; and so many of them rose to fame and forgot about their true purpose: to spread the ideology of their forefathers and “hail Óðinn” through their music and lyrics. Now I am not a critic of being famous and composing music for a wide range of people –a.k.a. doing it in a “pop” way- but the thing is, as soon as a band, especially in metal, become pop, they somehow lose their spirit and epicness. And in viking metal, it is a common problem happening to those bands who manage to survive in today's metal scene.

But still, there are a few bands who stay true to their roots and put their origins into their melodies, rhythms, and songs. Falkenbach, in particular, is one of those bands. Starting in the late 80s, the mysterious sole member Vratyas Vakyas has tried his best to translate the Old Norse legends and tales into music. And wow! He’s been absolutely successful, for Falkenbach –in my opinion- is one of the greatest viking metal bands in the last three decades, if not the best. (I know all those vikingheads now rise in rage and shout: “what about Bathory, you freak?!” But truth is, I love Falkenbach more than Quorthon’s own epic journey through the Viking age.)

Heralding – The Fireblade, is their 4th full-length and it is definitely the best among all their previous and later releases. It is mentioned by Vakyas himself that he planned to release The Fireblade in 1995, but didn’t due to equipment and Odin-knows-what problems. And I must say that I’m truly glad that he didn’t, because now, whenever I listen to the album, it just takes me to another time, another world, and another reality. Amongst this epic musical journey are re-recorded versions of masterpieces, Heathen Foray and Heralder, which was released on previous albums, and here on Heralding, they sound better than ever. They talk to the listener, they light this weird feeling of honor, pride, bravery, and adventure, and they simply manage to blow one’s mind. For instance, the singing and monotony of the rhythm on Heathen Foray creates a state of trance and truly pictures a golden age, where poetry was a way of storytelling and gods and men and legends lived together; therefore, this track is one of the best openers of an album in the history of viking metal. And after a while, in the middle of the album, comes Heralder, a beautifully forged piece of music, followed by an epic poem of heathendom and heritage. It is a true hymn to those ancient times when Vakyas always tries to picture through his works.

But as I’ve listened to Heralding countless times since it was released, I can tell you that the highlight on this album is Hávamál. It’s got more folk elements and less black metal-ish approach. The acoustic guitar makes a wonderful atmosphere through the song and Vakyas‘ vocals create a pure sense of melancholy. It treats the listener in a way similar to Heathen Foray, for it builds a trancelike mood and progresses slowly until the very end, where a solo guitar is heard playing a melody full of vibe and emotion, and then ending the song in a similar manner to the beginning, with only an acoustic guitar and melancholic vocals. It is safe to say that Hávamál is one the most memorable pieces done by Mr. Vakyas.

About the whole Heralding experience, I can assure you that there is enough variety in music that you won’t feel tired and will be even surprised by different elements on the album. For instance, you can hear a more black metal side of Falkenbach on …of Forests Unknown, which is a thunderstorm of catchy riffs and harsh vocals; or some symphonic spices on Skirnir, containing some beautifully composed choirs and violins; or a slow and heavy presence on the instrumental piece Gjallar, which also features some solo work similar to those heard on Hávamál.

Engineering on this album is professionally done; drums are real and spirited and perfectly played, which makes the album better sounding than the first two albums, where drum machines were used and ruined the epic sound of Falkenbach. Guitars have a unique and heavy sound and can be recognized upon hearing the first seconds of songs. And last but foremost, Vakyas’ mesmerizing voice is the strongest factor present on this album and also makes this project unique in the vast world of Viking-themed music.

Heralding – The Fireblade is an essential listening and is recommended to all those vikingheads and heritage enthusiasts who enjoy listening to Poetic Edda or epic lyrics inspired by it in a metal outfit. Do not miss it, kids! It happens once in a lifetime.

Recommended tracks: Heathen Foray, Heralder, Hávamál

Even their weakest effort has it's golden moments. - 73%

linguist2011, October 22nd, 2012

Falkenbach's fourth album, “Heralding-The Fireblade” has an interesting bit of history surrounding it. First and foremost, many of the songs found on this album were actually written by long-standing member Vratyas Vakyas for a supposed debut album entitled “Fireblade”, yet unfortunately due to equipment troubles and problems with the production, it never ended up getting finished. The other interesting thing that leads off the aforementioned point is the fact that there are two rehashed versions of older songs in Falkenbach's back catalogue-That is, 'Heathen Foray', a new version of 'The Heathenish Foray' from the “Magni Blandinn Ok Meginitiri” album, and a version of 'Laeknishendr' from the band's debut album, “En Their Medh Riki Fara”.

However, 'Heathen Foray' turns out to be both a slight disappointment and a bad way to introduce a Falkenbach album. The most instantly noticeable thing about it is the main weakness of the entire album-The clean vocals. It's not something that Vakyas has ever really seemed to struggle with in any of the band's albums prior to “Heralding...”, but here it appears that the man himself wants the song to end as soon as possible, as the laziness of his voice also drags the entire song down into eventual boredom and monotony. Not only that, but the lyrical content here is far too excessive for a song as originally well written and composed as 'The Heathenish Foray'. For the first four or five minutes, Vakyas croons zombie-like as each particular lyric passes by without any power or heartfelt emotion, instead appearing as a damp squib. For a band that is well known for their excellent songwriting and stellar compositions, 'Heathen Foray' could well have been axed from the album to save any listener skipping to the next track.

These flaws continue over the next two tracks, but thankfully are not as prominent. 'Of Forests unknown' begins to sound very promising indeed when a furious Tyrann screams his heart and soul out over each particular lyric, giving power and emphasis to the overall song itself. The aggressive nature of each instrument and faster pace provides some interest to the listener, yet one can't help but think that for a near four-minute song, there are just too many lyrics to fully embrace the performance of the instruments themselves. Instead of noticing how excellent the guitar work is, or how powerful and epic the atmospheres are, it seems that the harsher vocals, which do work well, are a dominating force. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but for a band like Falkenbach who excel at their instrumental performances, this could well be off-putting to many a fan. The very melancholic 'Havamal', with its cleverly intertwined acoustic guitar interludes and sorrowful violin passages, also appears very well written, but yet again, as on the album's first track, Vakyas' clean vocal delivery is limp and doesn't add anything bar an extra annoyance to the song itself, suggesting that he is desperate to make his voice known.

You'll probably have read the last couple of paragraphs and be asking yourself “Is this album even worth my time?”, and you could hardly be blamed for doing so. Fear not though, for the album's first three tracks are in fact the worst. On the fourth and most furiously performed 'Roman Land', harsh vocals take center stage and rip right through everything intact, and although the instruments still can't be heard properly, it gives off a more interesting and engaging effect than on the last three songs. The similar song structure of 'Walkiesjar' also adds flavour to the album's general sound, yet never seems to suffer from mediocrity or bore the listener as more folk instrumentation is used to its full effect. Even the instrumental closer 'Gjallar', which is strongly reminiscent of the band's first album, “En Their Medh Riki fara”, powers through with its solid guitar performances and wispy keyboard work.

Arguably the highlight of this album is directly in the middle-One of the most progressive and perhaps experimental songs in Falkenbach's career, 'Heralder'. At first the clean vocals don't really seek to impress, but with the inclusion of some excellently performed narrative work and more folk instrumentation, the songwriting is, for once, heartfelt and emotional, as epic atmospheres soothe the listener's ears before crumbling them to dust with some very solid yet deviating guitar rhythms. Not only that, but the narrative work features some astoundingly good lyrics, and one female voice that appears much stronger and more powerful than Tyrann himself. Throughout the song a story of epic proportions is told, as “...the man dismounted and his horse was taken by its bridle to be brought into the stabling/Meanwhile he was brought to the hall where the king sat on his great seat” and “After three days and nights of riding the frontier they reached/with their hearts wholly determined/And encountered the christian church in their once sacred woods”. Reading that to yourself now it wouldn't probably seem as if it was that impressive, but on a background of stellar musicianship and lush atmospheres, it proves to work quite well.

“Heralding-The Fireblade” has a fair few flaws, but also manages to save itself from becoming a disaster by using excellent narrative work and some very well used folk instrumentation. Although this album would only be liked by long-time fans of the band or for those interested in tracing the band's history, it still does offer a few surprises. If you want to listen to 'Heathen Foray' and 'Laeknishendr', you would be better off listening to their original versions on the “Magni Blandinn Ok Megnitiri” and “En Their Medh Riki fara” albums respectively.

Return to the roots - 100%

zaebangad, August 20th, 2006

A friend of mine once told me: "Falkenbach is created for headbanging" This album proves he was kinda right.
The Fireblade was supposed to be released in 1995 or something. However, because of some crap with the equipment, Falkenbach wasn't able to release it. So, here it is folks, 10 years later. And it sounds superb!

Vratyas returns to his more blackish roots with this one. The folkish is still there, but the black has (most of the time) taken over. Some songs have been rewritten, some that we've never heard have been put in, and all in all, I think Vratyas has done some pretty good work. What I like most about the album is that it manages sounding kinda like a 1995 piece of music, while still being recorded with modern equipment.

Heathen Foray - although a version of Magni Blandinn's "The Heathenish Foray", it still sounds pretty fresh and awesome. It starts (as most Falkenbach songs do) with sounds of a shoreline, working up the ambient, when suddenly, bam! Vratyas starts up those guitar riffs and gets things moving. Perfect balance between folk and metal! At the end, Vratyas gives us something that remarkably sounds like a solo, something I only remember Falkenbach to do on Magni Blandinn's "When Gjallarhorn Will Sound".

Then comes "Of Forests Unknown". This one is solely black metal - oriented. Starts up with a single bass note, just before Falkenbach slams those heavy and fast riffs in your face! Nice shouting encompanies the grinding of the guitars. As is his style, Vratyas suddenly stops the song at parts to give you a more melodic (yet, undeniably heavy) riff, before he continues the bone-crushing black metal riffs.

Havamal - this one's up next. For some reason, the album's tone suddenly turns folkish, with acoustic guitars and grinding riffs coming up simultaneously. Clean vocals accompany the whole piece, so Vratyas keeps things more viking than black. At a certain period, another solo-typed thing can be heard playing. The ending is superb, with the guitars stopping, Vratyas singing a couple of lines (which are by the way taken from the Norse poem Havamal, as the name suggests) with his clean vocals, and the whole thing ends pretty viking-esque.

Roman Land - Another major shift to blacker metal, this time Vratyas shouts at you stuff in what I believe is Old German, with occasional English. Blast beats and moderately-fast riffs prevail the song, with (once more) sudden halts, which Vratyas uses to tell you some old heathen sayings, and once he's done, the song goes back on track! A superb example of pagan black metal.

Heralder is one of my favorite songs. Again shifting to folkish, it starts with another mini-solo just before Vratyas starts shouting as the keyboards give you an "exalted" atmosphere. Mid-song, the poetry (and heavy riffing) stops, and the storytelling Vratyas tells you a nice little story. Then he continues his heavy, yet melodic way. Right amount of black, and right amount of viking.

Laeknishendr - I hold this song as the best one I've ever heard! I heard it long ago on a Battle Metal Compilation and it has been haunting me ever since! This song was the one that led me to Falkenbach (and folk metal in general)! At minute 1:42, the black metal stops and Vratyas starts one of the most wonderful folkish melodies I've ever heard. I always pick up my acoustic guitar and I just can't keep myself from not playing the melody and singing along (the text is in Old Norse, which proves what kind of a geek I am). Afterwards, he returns the song to its black metal course, just to twist it back to viking at the end. Along with its counterpart on En Their Medh Riki Fara, Laeknishendr is undoubtedly my favorite song!

"Walkiesjar" is sort of a battle song. It starts out with war drums and continues with Vratyas' black metal riffing and shouting. It is quite short (3:50, with the song serioulsy starting at the second minute), but a great piece of metal music. Truly majestic viking black metal, it relies heavily upon heavy riffing, but still maintains a great viking battle atmosphere.

Skirnir - This is a superb ending for a superb album. In its core, it is a (sort of) black metal song with sudden pauses where Vratyas (and for the first time, a female vocals) goes deep into narrating, just to return to those standard black metal shouts and shrieks.

All in all, a perfect balance between folk and metal, between viking and black, and old and new material. Sure, it sounds pretty much like the other Falkenbach releases, but that doesn't mean it can't be a good release! I think it's a pretty efficient comeback to the earlier (and heavier) Falkenbach releases, stepping away from the mainly melodic and folkish Ok Nefna Tysvar Ty. Buy this album, it'll kick your ass!

A Bit Disappointed... - 67%

ict1523, July 1st, 2006

I fell in love with Falkenbach when I heard "Ok Nefna Tysvar Ty". I loved the melodies, the sounds of nature, and the elements of folk and viking combined. Obviously, I was fairly excited when I heard of a new album coming out from Falknebach. I was hoping for another fairly good folkish/viking album, and was also hoping that it would be a bit more heavy, as the other album in my opinion had too many clean vocals and didn't sound too metal at all. Well, I did get some heavier songs, and I definitely got some nice growling, but this album really didn't deliver anything new, and this is where it disappoints me.

The album has folkish instruments, great vocals, nice melodies, and sounds of nature. However, there is one problem. Half the songs sound almost exactly the same as the last album. I don't mind when an album keeps the same style, or even when the riffs are repeated often in more epic songs. However, in this album, there really isn't enough variety, and the riffs aren't the killer awesome type that you could hear over and over again without getting bored. Here I did get bored.

The album starts off with "Heathen Foray". This is a pretty good song, with the sound of waves at the beginning, and it isn't a very heavy song, with a lot of clean vocals, but at 7:15 in length, it is too long for its own good. By 4 minutes into the song, I'm saying to myself when will it end?

"Of Forest Unknown" is a bit different. This song is much faster and heavier than the others. The vocals are harsh and raspy. The guitars are heavier, and you can't hear as much folk influence. This song offered something different and was still good which is why this to me is one of the best songs on the album.

"Havamal" is a decent song once again. But it is long, and it isn't very heavy. It starts off with singing and acoustic guitar. Fine by me, not boring. About 27 seconds into the song, the singing continues but the drums and heavier guitars come in. Pretty good so far. However the song suffers the same problem as the first. While it doesn't get as excruciatingly boring, I still end up switching the track before it is over. Except this time more like 5 minutes into the song instead of 4. Mostly because the solo towards the end keeps me listening to it for a bit.

"Roman Land" starts off with a nice guitar riff, and then some rolling drums. This song is very nice. Not too much folkish influence, sounds like Viking Metal with a touch of black. The vocals here are very good too...they sound like a slightly weaker version of Manegarm's vocals. Nicely done, the riff repeats itself a lot, but it is a good one.

"Heralder" swings back again to a more folkish tune, but the song has growly vocals mixed in with the flutes and guitar, so it actually sounds very nice. Almost like Finntroll a little bit. Decent song and one of the best on here.

"Laekmishendr" starts off with a heavy, fast-paced riff. It is a fairly heavy song with a few breaks for some flutes and acoustic guitar. A bit long, but at least it varies.

"Walkiesjar" starts off with some distant drums getting louder and louder before the guitar kicks in. But nothing really gets going till about 1 minute into the song, and then the riffs just get a little louder. When the vocals come in at 1:19, then the song gets a bit more melodic and even atmospheric. Much better after that boring intro.

"Skirnir", the last track on the album, goes back to some folkish tunes with clean vocals. The song isn't that great though, it has some people cutting in and talking at times with the instruments playing which is a little annoying. And the same riff being played over and over gets annoying as well.

The album on a whole isn't bad, but goddamn, those riffs after the second or third listen can drive you insane. Moonsorrow and Graveland's riffs are good enough to be repeated over and over again without getting on my nerves, Falkenbach's sadly are not. I was hoping for more.

Majestic - 95%

Koolacc, June 29th, 2006

Being a viking metal fun I'm having really a hard time nowadays, Bathory won't release any new stuff, Thyrfing get worse and worse and Manegarm bore me :S Thank God for last Moonsorrow CD Verisakeet which really pleased me and above all for the release of Heralding – The Fireblade. Falkenbach, one-man project of a man hiding behind a name Vratyas Vakyas, don't know how to let down a listener.

For his new album he invited also musicians from the band Vindsval to assist him and he decided to take the new album as a re-release of the never released debut album Heralding. Moreover he added newly recorded versions of some older songs as well as brand new compositions. The result is breath-taking. Majestic slower passages sung by Vratyas alternate with black metal shrieked parts, swinging tones of an acoustic guitar turn into carving riffs. It's damn hard to find and album, whose atmosphere while listening to it absorbs you in such a way as Fireblade does. The best thing to do here is to close your eyes, let yourself drag by the music and relish.

Heathen Foray, Havamal, Heralder, Laeknishendr and Skirnir, these songs were re-recorded and in the new arrangement (the vocals changed, sound as well, of course) they are just excellent (I cannot say anything about Havamal and Skirnir, because I haven't heard the originals :-( ). Interesting thing is that after listening to these remakes I still enjoy listening to the old versions immensely. Other songs are of the same quality, indescribable with words, monumental viking hymns you that you just have to hear for yourself ...

Theres hardly anything else to add, fascinating album, which in the digipak version offers the song Gjallar as a bonus, which if you manage to get will only increase your joy from the record (it's also a masterpiece :-)). I didn't give this album a 10 only because I don't know what rating to give to the next Falkenbach album (assuming there'll be one). I really don't know what o expect from it, because in order to outdo Heralding – The Fireblade it'd have to be better than a perfection and I don't think that is easily achievable :-)

Written for http://www.metalzone.info

The Magnificent Pagan Scenery - 95%

nick_forest, June 24th, 2006

Falkenbach's melody is unique. It conveys a sense of melancholy, taking you to the northern land where the mountains are cold and the rivers and lakes are freezing. Compared with other Viking bands, Falkenbach is more epic and mysterious. The melody is weird, folkish, simplified, and absolutely great!

Heralding - The Fireblade is the 4th full-length album of Falkenbach. It is the combination of the three previous works. The first song reminds me of Vanadis in "ok nefna tysvar ty" and make me impressed. Then comes a blackened and fast work "Of Forests Unknown". My favourite song in this album is "Havamal". The first time I listened to this one, I was travelling by bus from Hangzhou to Mount Mogan in China. The fantastic acoustic and pagan melody added to the beauty of the natural and isolated scenery along the country road. This is a typical work of Falkenbach and the feelings expressed by it is most suitable when you are travelling in nature, where the sun shines behind the grey sky and the landscape is wide and distant. "Heralder" is based on a decent keyboard ambience, and develops into an incredible part at 2:20, where the folk melody is so nice that I'm lost in it and even don't want to get out. The acoustic section in "Laeknishendr" is impressing, followed by fast blackened riffs, expressing the beauty of pagan culture. "Walkiesjar" is also a decent work, the highlight of which is its steady drums in the beginning and ending part of the song and the chorus is also great. The last work "Skirnir" has a theme whose melody is similar to that of "Heathen Foray" and of course the typical Falkenbach style, well mixed with the blackened part.

In addition to the songs, the art work of the cover is also great. It is similar to the cover of the last album and describes a place where you're supposed to travel while enjoying the music of Falkenbach. Check this album out, it will take you to a weird and mysterious journey and let you return to the freezing landscape of the pagan northern land.

Another great one from Falkenbach! - 93%

cyclone, December 20th, 2005

Falkenbach are one of those bands we can always count on. One man band in the form of mysterious Vratyas Vakyas (originally from Iceland) has been active for quite some time now... 16 years, to be exact (the first Falkenbach LP is almost 10 years old by now, though). In that time, it has given some of the most stunning metal ever made - Falkenbach records are all like journeys into the world of mythical battles, Vikings, pagans, snow and ice. Even though there has been some kind of a boom of artists, that try to play atmosferic and epic blackened folk metal like Falkenbach does, Vratyas is completely out of their league. I don't know anyone else that would have such sense for melody, atmosphere and composition as him, except for late Quorthon of Bathory, Odin save his soul.

It's dead easy to picture the things their lyrics talk about when listening to Falkenbach record. The mixture of acoustic guitars, discrete keyboards, atmospheric folk instruments and Vratyas' clean vocals creates some beautiful imagery of serene northern landscapes in your head. If one is a fan of viking/folk metal, he of course knows that the images will soon change. And yes, the music eventually changes. Clean chanting is replaced by rough blackened screams, acoustic passages are now distorted black metal riffs and the drumming is getting faster and faster. We are now in the middle of a fight between christians and pagans.

And that's also the best thing about Heralding... It includes all those elements from the previous column, which we liked so much on previous Falkenbach records. Heralding shares most simmilarities with the epic Magni Blandinn Ok Megintiri, since it's tamer than the Falkenbach debut, but much wilder and meaner than it's direct precedessor. The highlight of the record is definitely epic and and atmosferic Havamal with it's great acoustic parts which eventually graduate into powerful and energic chanting parts. Laekmishendr is a re-recording of a song from En Their Medh Riki Fara and is so most simmilar to the raw black metal songs from that record. The rest is always somewhere between epic atmosphere of the clean parts and speedy black metal of the rough ones, but stays unique at all times.

Heralding - The Fireblade is a proof that Vikings are far from being extinct and that even in 2005, you can record a timeless classic. A definitive must for all fans of viking/folk metal!