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Underrated and excellent folk/black metal - 93%

Thiestru, August 29th, 2009

Folk metal is becoming an oversaturated subgenre, I'm afraid. It seems like new bands are cropping up every week, many of them being hailed to high heaven, but few of them warrant such acclaim, owing to triteness or outright silliness. But this? No, this is different. This is solemn, beautiful, and original.

For an EP, this contains a lot of great music. This is basically the prototype of the sound Vintersorg would develop further on 'Till Fjälls' and 'Ödemarkens Son', but I'm not sure he ever really improved on this - at least not until he went in a new direction on 'Cosmis Genesis'.

Basically, this is folk/black metal, and while this wasn't even that new when this first came out (Ulver had already done it on 'Bergtatt' a few years earlier, at least), this stands as a shining example of just how good such a hybrid genre can be.

Much has been said about Vintersorg's powerful clean vocals already, and all I can do is add my praise. He was at this time singing in a rich baritone, perhaps a little bombastic (who said that was bad?), but very impressive anyway. He sounds like what I imagine a skald would sound like. Music like this needs strong vocals, and that's exactly what he delivers. These are some of the best melodies I've ever heard even today. They're catchy, but also heartfelt and affecting. His harsh vocals are pretty average for black metal, so I can't say much about them. Sometimes they work quite well, other times they seem a tad unneeded.

His guitar-work is outstanding too. Vintersorg's a sadly underrated guitarist; he's quite accomplished in both writing and playing solid riffs and acoustic parts, but also leads and solos. Between this and his awesome vocals, you start to imagine scenes from the frigid Northland hundreds of years ago, of honor and courage in the face of great difficulties, and some of the sorrow that occasionally came therewith. I think most bands who play this style try to express something of this feeling, but none succeed better than Vintersorg does here.

Cia Hedmark contributes female vocals and violin on a couple of songs, both a welcome addition. She has a lovely voice and is a skilled violinist, and I wouldn't have minded if she were a full-time member. Oh well, at least she was on the next two albums too.

The drums are handled by a machine, unfortunately, like most Vintersorg albums. On the positive side, they sound quite good, and you might not notice at first that they're not being handled by a live drummer. Vintersorg also plays bass on this album, but it falls into the same trap so many metal albums do: it makes no mark at all, aside from maybe filling out the sound some.

If you want to check out early Vintersorg, I'd probably recommend 'Till Fjälls' before this one, simply because it's longer and is about as good anyway (that's the album that got me into him), but this should NOT be overlooked.

I only wish it was longer - 90%

linkavitch, March 13th, 2009

Everything Vintersorg does on Hedniskhjärtad he does right, making this an excellent folk metal EP.

The atmosphere in this album is really great. Having the keyboards really helps make each song stand out due to the different way it’s used in every song. And the bold low growl vocals done by Vintersorg are great and help seal the epic sound of the music. Vintersorg also does these harsher parts that a lot of people consider to be much like black metal. I don’t consider them to make the album black metal because they’re not really demonic sounder, just more like some harsh vocals that might be hard to understand at times. Also track 2 has a female vocal part in the beginning of the track and it sounds great. Her voice is really smooth and calming, with the acoustic guitar behind her voice it helps set a peaceful mood.

The production is very clean, with a think guitar sound, and a bass part that is actually audible. The guitars are bold and the bass can be heard easily, it’s mostly rhythm based but you can hear it for the majority of the album. The guitars are heavy and are mainly used to help keep the song going, they’re not used as the main attraction in any of the work by Vintersorg.

The drums sound pretty good for a program. Occasionally they have that feel when you hear it you know its fake, the first track for example you can tell their fake in the beginning for only like five seconds though. Otherwise they sound realistic and are used nicely and have a nice flow with the music.

This is great folk metal from on of the best at making folk. Vintersorg may not be for everyone, the guitar work isn’t the main focus so that might annoy some people. Other than that however, this is an excellent folk EP with wonderful vocals and some great atmosphere.

One of the best of the genre - 85%

TheStormIRide, March 7th, 2006

The mood of this album is set perfectly by a really cool introduction, really reminiscent of Ulver's "Kveldsannger" or anything by October Falls. It has some really well thought out acoustic guitar patterns. This just sets an incredibly earthy tone, really dreary and dark.

When the music starts, the listener is hit straight on with a double bass rhythm and some black metal-esque guitars. It definitely has a Borknagar feel it, not only because of the vocals, but because of the epic sounds of the keyboards and the way black metal and folk metal meet. The production on this album is just about right for a band of this genre. It's not overproduced, which can lead to a very mechanical sound. It is not under produced like many black metal bands, where you have to listen to the album with headphones or it all sounds like static. The general production keeps the earthy and organic feel to it.

This earthy feel is definitely kept with the use of lovely female vocals occasionally and the acoustic guitars that are interwoven into the music. Vintersorg's vocals also help to keep an organic feeling on this album. They are not overproduced or overdubbed to excess. He does "sing with himself" a few times (read: overdub multiple vocal tracks), but it is not overdone, keeping a very warm and earthy feeling to the music.

Although a lot of elements of beauty are employed on this album, there are still some very heavy, metal elements that add to the majesty of this work. The drums, at parts, have a very black metal feeling to them; rollicking rhythms and some close-to-blast beat elements are used. While at other parts they keep the rhythm without relentlessly blasting out your ears. I'm not going to talk about the bass guitar because, although you can hear it, it is not a necessary element of the music. In other words, if other bass lines were used it would not affect the general feeling of this album.

The guitars, aside from the acoustic parts, are very well done. They have an epic feeling to them, which goes along with the Viking element of Vintersorg. The guitars are not overly distorted. There is a nice middle ground on the guitars here. They are heavy at most parts, but not the focal point of the music like so many other bands. There are some rather excellent riffs used, such as the slower riffs in Norrskenstrommar. The guitarist can definitely play well, but the excellent work is pushed towards the back to make room for the focal work of this album, the vocals.

The true standout of this album is Vintersorg's vocal work. Every time the man sings it sounds great, so this album is no exception. He has a mid-tone range, not high pitched, but not deep and guttural. I imagine if I could understand the language he was singing in, I could understand the words perfectly. Even when he sings more harshly it seems clean at the same time. This midrange vocal style used by Vintersorg is attempted by many, but few seem to pull it off so well and so convincingly. The vocals are done so well, that it seems to push the rest of the music into the background. The music seems to fill in the blanks between verses.

One of the biggest low points of this album is the length. Ok, so it's an EP. I still want more! I guess that's a good thing from Vintersorg's perscpetive, as listeners will no doubt want more from the band. That's what EPs do I guess. Another low point is how the vocals seem to take away from the music. This may be a good thing to some. The vocals are excellent, and the music is good, but I have to wonder if the music would sound better with a different vocalist. Probably not. This work is actually relatively free of flaws. A few better choices in the songwriting department would not hurt, but then again there are parts of this release that are just incredible; mainly when the acoustic guitars intermingle with the rest of the music.

This is an excellent album, overall. Vintersorg's vocal work alone makes this album brilliant. The music on this album is good, but not exceptional. The general feeling of this album, like I said before, is very organic. The music and production keeps this feeling alive for the entirety of the release. This album is recommended to fans of Viking metal and black metal. I would also highly recommend this album to any people looking into Viking metal for the first time. This release surely captures the best elements (in my opinion) of the genre. Well done!

VINTERSORG "THE GREAT" - 100%

brutaljess, September 8th, 2005

This EP is a masterpiece, I mean, I have heard all the Vintersog´s albums (from “Till Fjälls” to “The focusing Blur”) and I have to say that this EP is above all of them, the voice, the keyboards, the classic guitars, I mean all of it.

The album begins with “Norrland”, a little acoustic guitar intro is presented and then powerful riffs with a wide deep clean voice. This track is really a great start. The next one is “Stilla”, some female vocals can be found here and the chorus is great, the next track “Norrskensdrömmar” is another great piece of involving Norwegian paganism, a great work with the music (this riff will stock in your head for several weeks).
“Hednaorden”: excellent Viking stuff man! (Oh! The voice of this guy is awesome in this track), the last track and my favorite is “Tussmörkret”. This track is what Vintersorg really was, a great musician. The raw voice is well used here along with the clean vocals, the chorus is the best in the EP.

From the beginning to the end, this release is the greatest Viking thing I ever heard in my own life, this is the best album of all, because at that time, lots of bands found their roots with it.

“Till falls” is almost comparable to this EP, and “Odemarkenson” is a great one too, but “Hedniskhjärtad” is (I think), the kind of album that you say: “hey!, that guy is different from all, he is Vintersorg”