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They won't go down in history - 55%

Sean16, June 8th, 2006

This release, alongside another full-length album, seems to be the only legacy of Vanaheim, a now defunct Norwegian Viking/pagan metal band among many others. Indeed, at first sight Vanaheim seems to have done little to be distinguished from their counterparts. The first name coming to mind by listening to the first song Riket (the instrumental intro doesn’t count, as usual) is of course the one of Viking masters Einherjer: the standard mid-tempo war anthem made of raspy guitars, both harsh and deep clean vocals, backed by orchestral keyboards, epic choirs and the occasional crystalline touch of piano.

Pleasant, but this album won’t go really further and, needless to say, Einherjer had already done it a dozen times better. The musicians here, though seeming to take their job seriously, are nothing more than decent, with the exception of the pianist but this one will warrant its own paragraph. The vocalists especially try far too hard to sound something like epic; just as if beyond every word they wanted to state “Hey guys look at the big fierce Viking I am!” and it rapidly becomes laughable. Listen to the a cappella transition, Heimferd, it’s simply hilarious. In addition of that the clean vocalist often takes this kind of drunken voice similar to the one of the last Einherjer singer some won’t probably mind, but which I personally always find a tad annoying.

Now, up to the pianist. He seems to be the most distinctive element of this band, to a point he almost sounds out of place. I’m pretty sure the beginning of Blodig Krigsmark is borrowed from some classical piece I can’t remember right now – but I’d swear having heard it before. Because you’re right, it’s mostly neoclassical piano here, arpeggios that won’t have sounded out of place on a Symphony X album but slightly clash when heard on the icy Norwegian shores. The pianist himself is far from being bad, he may play very fluently and all, but the fact is you could resurrect the great Chopin himself, he still wouldn’t fit with the overall feeling this kind of music is supposed to convey. The only track where he seems to have found the right balance is the epic, almost bombastic seven minutes long Krig, undoubtedly the pinnacle of the album.

What is funny is the closest to the end of the album one comes the most these piano parts become predominant, so that the last tracks end up sounding very different from the opening ones, and the orchestral conclusion, Fred, only reinforces the overall neoclassical feeling.

So, how would you call this? Progressive Viking metal? Maybe. Anyway as you may guess this work is eventually a bit difficult to rate. The band obviously put some effort in it, and it’s not unpleasant to hear, but for one reason or another it fails in really hitting its target.

Highlights: Riket, Krig