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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.