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Masterful - 100%

Sargon_The_Terrible, February 26th, 2008

Fifth full-length album for this often revered Viking/Black Metal band from France. Since there are so many good BM bands in this part of the world, it was no surprise to me that "Europa" is good, what surprised me is how good it is. After all, I liked their last album "Golden Age", but I didn't worship it. This album is awesome enough to verge on worship-it territory.

I said in my review of "Golden Age" that I thought the one-dimensional screaming vocals hurt that album, and a more vaired approach would make this a first-rate band. Well, they must have listened to me, as the vocals on this album are finally as dynamic as the music. Himinbjorg have also slowed down a bit and created a more varied overall sound that calls to mind such diverse influences as Bathory, Falkenbach, Burzum, Graveland and Skyforger – in other words just about everything cool about Viking Metal is to be found on this disc. The songs travel from blasting aggression, epic riffage, moody acoustic or atmospheric intros and back to the thundering riff attack. And this time the vocals are keeping pace, mixing a harsh bellow with a muted groan that sounds for all the world like Atilla Csihar, to some clean vocals that actually sound pretty good. Himinbjorg create complex soundscapes that shift from mood to mood, from birdsong to viking horns, from screams to whispers, and still they never lose sight of the overall composition, and the songs don't lack cohesion.

I thought Himinbjorg were pretty good before, but this album completely blew away my expectations. "Europa" is like a journey, it starts, and carries you along with it through strange places and Pagan lands, and when it's over, you are not quite the same. I doubt any Viking Metal album this year will come close.

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