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It's raining prog - 70%

Zephirus, February 13th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Dark Essence Records

Helheim are now a full ten albums into their career of Viking centric metal. I remember when they arrived in 1995 with the excellent Jormundgang, with vocals so ferocious you’d think a screaming Banshee had guested on it. This was harsh Black Metal with Viking imagery only, a fantastic debut not to be missed. I’ve taken little notice since that album for one reason or another. It’s a shame because it would have been interesting to follow their trajectory to the progressive style of today. Their still remains the odd flourish of heaviness on Rignir, but the Black Metal element is gone. I’m pleased to see the three core members are still in the band, quite a feat to dedicate yourself for such a long period without at least one soul taking the hump.

OK lets face it, there can be a strong comparison made to Enslaved here. They can’t be accused of ripping them off (forming around the same time), they have just gone in a similar direction. The tracks are generally mid paced affairs with a progressive feel and clean vocal. The vocals have that strong boom you get when the Norwegian language is sang, and all three members join in at times creating their own mini choir. The metal vocals are not completely resigned to burial as Kaldr introduces some mild throaty lines. Starting heavier the double bass drum winds up to drive the track along with a lovely pronounced bass guitar from V’gandr. There is time for the track to fall back to Viking hymn territory with a crescendo out the other side.

This is not the most melodic album, the guitars strum their riffs but these are never overly complex. The bass playing is prominent in the mix, which is nice to hear and the drums do add impact from time to time but mainly serve to push the tracks along. The enjoyment comes from the tracks as a whole rather than any spectacular instrument playing, they are structured in a way they don’t get boring, a brooding solo here, a tempo change there (Ísuð uses an interesting slide guitar technique). With only one track below 5mins this is a weighty release, close the 1hr mark. There are no obvious hits that you would throw on for a quick fix, it needs to be taken in one sitting if possible.

Typing Rignir into Google translate it auto-detects Icelandic as the language and gives Rain as the meaning. I won’t argue with that, in fact those lines on the cover do look raindrops! They perform in their mother tongue again, like they have for most of their albums, no complaints their either. Helheim have come a long way, they have not progressed out of the metal genre just yet. They retain enough grit to pass. I just wish there were a couple of standout tracks that would have me itching to come back for repeat listens more often, as is I’ll have to wait until I’ve an hour spare to immerse myself in it whole.