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A straightforward type of glory. - 70%

hells_unicorn, June 14th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Mighty Music

The style monikers of folk and viking metal can occasionally be misleading, particularly when accounting for the heavy popularity of bands such as Ensiferum, Korpiklaani and Turisas adding a heavy dose of keyboard and orchestral layering and period instruments to the former's underpinnings while generally relegating the latter to a lyrical subject. In truth, these two labels can denote any of a great number of stylistic possibilities, some of them a bit plainer and humbler than what one would suspect. Projects such as these tend to follow the original spirit of Bathory's pioneering works in the Viking style and opt for something slow and simply sticking to the metallic side of the equation all but exclusively. Such is the case with Vanir, a Danish outfit that tends to keep the style a bit closer to its roots while presenting it in a way that is somewhat reminiscent of a melodic death metal band approaching the style and moving much of the guitar melodies over to a bagpipe, whistle, or other folk music related instrument.

On their third full length studio endeavor The Glorious Dead, Vanir largely opts for keeping things aggressive, though the approach makes room both for extreme metal forays alongside a traditionally slow to mid-paced stride indicative of a band following the Hammerheart model. Much of this album spends its time pounding out crushing power chords in a fairly predictable fashion, while vocalist Martin HÃ¥kan keeps any semblance of melodic content away from his vocal performance, though he does mimic a number of different toneless vocal styles that range from a raspy Gothenburg groan to a vindictive low guttural bark. Sometimes things are fast and vicious in a quasi-thrashing fashion as on "Overlord" and "God Emperor", betraying an Arch Enemy tendency to their approach, but most of the time things are kept at a slower mid-paced roar, as on "March Of The Giants".

Naturally this isn't the full extent of Vanir's approach on this album, as what has been described could just as easily fit the sound of King Of Asgard or a few other similarly melodic death metal oriented Viking outfits. What is particularly of note is that following the recent loss of their keyboardist, this band has opted to simply go without the atmospheric backdrop that made their previous albums a slight bit more typical, and use the simple folk tunes of the bagpipes as a sort of lesser atmospheric draw to give the album's sound a greater degree of depth. It's something of a double-edged sword though as it further exposes a production quality that is a bit thin and shallow in character. A lot of this lay in the plainness of the guitar parts and the lack of depth in the vocal mix, but on the upside, this more bare bones sound is compensated for by a healthy amount of lead guitar work to cut up the fairly repetitive riff work and constancy of the drums.

As a whole, this is a pretty decent slab of folksy viking metal that is presented in more of an extreme fashion, but it definitely seems to be wanting for some keyboard parts that were present previously, and listens like it was written by a band with a regular keyboardist. It's probably best suited for those that particularly liked Suidakra's work leading up to their stylistic departure and flop Command To Charge, particularly that of Signs Of The Fallen and to an extent Emprise To Avalon. It gets a little bit monotonous when listened all the way through as the band is a bit slavish to a singular formula and their limited arrangement, but individually many of these songs are pretty strong. It's more of a moderate thunderstorm than the sort of glorious hurricane of the Aesir that its name would suggest.

Originally submitted to (The Metal Observer) on June 14, 2015.