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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