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Celtic Vikings! - 58%

Sean16, December 25th, 2008

Why not, after all? Vikings have roamed down as far as France, as far as this North-West region of Normandy – the Land of Norsemen. Alright, the guys from Himinbjorg don’t hail from Normandy, rather from the South-East of France and its population of Gauls. Not exactly the same culture. But who really cares? That’s not the issue here; because the issue, you know, that’s the vocals.

The band may boast two vocalists (both also playing various other instruments) and a fair variety of singing styles from plain harsh to totally clean vocals, unfortunately none of these really manages to lift itself far above mediocrity level. Clean vocals sound grandiloquent, grotesque, and usually out of tune: the guys are most probably holding Quorthon in the highest esteem, forgetting he wasn’t exactly the model to follow when it came to singing. There are some semi-clean, semi-harsh vocals which sound atrociously forced (check It Was in Europe to fully see what I mean), suggesting the guy who, well, produces those sounds simply isn’t accustomed to sing in the first place. Granted, medium-pitched harsh vocals with a black metal flavour are used on a good portion (around one half) of the album and are by far the most supportable, but this doesn’t mean they’re anything close to genius. Actually, they’re nothing more than the minimum you may expect from the fifth album from a moderately known, if only at a national level, band. Indeed, you read well – FIVE albums, and what strikes the most is how this work sounds amateurish in so many aspects!

Amateur – not bad, if one can pass over the repugnant vocals of course. The production is clear without sounding outrageously polished. The guitarists know their jobs, and the solos are by far the most remarkable moments here. In addition almost every song begins with a well-crafted riff, even if what follows is fully predictable after the first thirty seconds or so have elapsed. Viking metal is repetitive, folk music is repetitive, the same old refrain – we all know that, nothing wrong, but it’s a good thing there is no long track on this release, as the songwriting doesn’t reveal any stunning imagination. Also don’t mind the fact that, let’s say It Was in Europe and The Law of Worship, are a bit too obviously sisters. Don’t mind the fact the drummer seems to too much stick to a same pre-determined pattern from the first bar of a song to the last, a pattern where double bass usually plays the main part; at least he isn’t a machine. Don’t mind the fact there is an intro and four instrumental interludes (don’t ask me why all but one are unnamed) all of negligible artistic interest, consisting either in silly, non-sensical distortion, or in the beaten-to-death de rigueur acoustic stammering. In fact, don’t mind a lot of weaknesses and you may notice the Viking spirit, notwithstanding, is well there, with an overall sound highly reminiscent of Einherjer. After all, didn’t Einherjer also show a questionable vocalist in their later years?

That’s a fact, no song can really stick in anyone’s head. Again, mostly blame the vocals, as you just can’t pay enough attention to a track your first movement would have been to skip as soon as the vocalist enters. No wonder the best moment here is, logically, a song where the vocals are curiously mixed down, and with overall very few singing anyway, Daily Desillusions (sic). An odd track indeed, just more subtle than all the others with its extended guitar solos and its overall vibe far closer to melodic black metal than plain Viking/folk metal (strange coincidence? it’s the only song written by a different bandmember). Last Day in Alesia (Alesia being this place where Gauls once surrendered to Romans) could have been a solid closing track with a grand, epic feel, but is ruined by the vocals, as most of the tracks here indeed. Sad, but true.

By the way, Himinbjorg – you write disillusions, not desillusions. Amateur, said I?

Highlights: Daily Desillusions