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Vintersorg - Orkan - 75%

NomTheWise, October 14th, 2012

In the last decade you usually had to wait at least two years for a new Vintersorg album, sometimes even four. Considering the immense quality of each album Mr. Hedlund has done so far, the long waiting periods have always been rewarded. So it was really surprising that only one year after “Jordpuls” the band announced a new album called “Orkan”. Now you may wonder if that might have affected the quality of the new record – and you are right to do so. But the answer is: No, it hasn’t.

To be honest, “Orkan” doesn’t work at first listen. This – it seems to me – is a characteristic almost every Vintersorg album shows. So if you intend to listen to the songs the band has published so far, before you think about purchasing “Orkan”, make sure to give the songs the opportunity to sink in. The songs are too complex to be memorized by listening to them only once. “Orkan” definitely takes some time to unfurl, but after the third of fourth listen the details are fascinating. Riffs I didn’t really like at first suddenly became catchy, and I found myself humming melodies I hadn’t realized at the beginning.

The album has no need for an intro and directly starts with the very melodic “Istid”, combining blast beats with a good deal of keyboards and one of the best choruses the band has ever done. “Ur Stjärnstoft är vi komna” sounds a bit odd at first, but gets better every time you listen to it. “Polarnatten” is my favorite on “Orkan” and might be the best example for a successful combination of both Vintersorg styles. Unfortunately the quality slightly decreases in the second half of the album, but songs like the melancholic “Norrskenssyner” or the majestic “Urvädersfången“ are still way above the average.

It also seems that the band has finally found its own niche, combining the essences of their early, pagan-inspired albums and their later work, that dealt more with science and the cosmos. So, what we find on “Orkan” basically goes in the same direction “Solens Rötter” and “Jordpuls” did. A very good combination of epic, oftentimes catchy melodies with many progressive parts and unusual tone sequences. Another thing that comes as usual are the vocals: You will find both growls and Vintersorg’s outstanding clean vocals alternating each other perfectly. Of course “Orkan” also comes up with new elements. That’s for example a very interesting use of a flute in “Istid” which reminded me of Jethro Tull, or an atmospheric guitar solo at the end of “Myren” that could have been on Maiden’s “Somewhere in Time” in ’86.

Nevertheless, this niche in which the band has settled down with the last three albums, also means that “Orkan” is not as innovative as “Visions from the Spiral Generator” or “The Focusing Blur” back then. But then again, the last two albums haven’t been either.

Altogether, “Orkan” should satisfy fans of the band (especially if they liked “Solens Rötter” and “Jordpuls”) and progressive metal in general. Vintersorg have delivered an album that is at all times above the ordinary – but that does also not come close the highlights of Vintersorg’s own discography.

Originally written for www.northwind-promotion.org

Hits Like a Hurricane - 90%

eyes_of_apocalypse, July 5th, 2012

It seems some were lost when Vintersorg took his brief forray into progressive territory in Visions from the Spiral Generator and The Focusing Blur. While Jordpuls was a bit of a "back to the roots" album, it seemed uneasy to me. Jordpuls is undeniable folk metal in a similar vein as his early records, and well done at that, but it didn't seem like he was actually comfortable in it. While some progressive qualities remained (as do they here), I got the feeling his spirit yearned to delve deeper into the progressive complexities that were semi-abandoned in that record. Orkan is in the same vein as Jordpuls, but Mr. V finally seems at home in his folk metal roots again.

What makes Orkan stand out for me is its consistency. While Solens rötter and Jordpuls are great albums, each one had a glaringly excellent highlight that made the rest of the album seem really weak by comparison ("Döpt i en jökelsjö" and "Klippor och skär," respectively). "Orkan" is my favorite, but "Polarnatten," "Myren," and "Istid" are all strong contenders for my end of the year top song list.

Orkan embodies folk metal as it should be, in my opinion. Vintersorg has a true knack for forging catchy vocal lines - even in his progressive era, there are vocal hooks galore, and Orkan contains no shortage of them. The dominant title track is the best example; "Orkan" rains down one of the catchiest choruses in Vintersorg's history with competitively catchy verses. It deserves a rank among Vintersorg's best songs; with each listen, it grows in its enchanting power. The folk melodies are also catchy and embody the persona of forests and oceans, as they should - not just in the title track, but the entire album. "Polarnatten" has a fantastic chorus, and as does "Myren." "Ur stjärnstoft är vi komna" has one of my favorite performances of the album at roughly 5:05 - 5:45.

The main drawback to this album for me is the drawback to all of Vintersorg's folk albums not named Cosmic Genesis: the focus on soaring vocals leaves the instruments lacking. While I believe the folk metal instrumentation has really been kicked up on Orkan when compared to some of his previous albums (in that they don't sound nearly as synthetic as they did on Jordpuls), the rhythms and grooves of the guitar meander a bit occasionally, dropping into an uninspired sound. Truthfully, if it was anyone else, it would be a huge downpoint to the album. With this being Vintersorg, though, I honestly don't care that much. The vocals are so excellent, they make up for the occasionally uninspired riffing and then some. It's official: Andreas Hedlund can seriously sing. And, with this being folk metal, the vocals and folk instrumentation are most important anyway.

Furthermore, despite riffing that weakens at times, the solos are always superb. Songs like "Istid" and "Polarnatten" have nothing less but solos of the highest quality; there's a folky aura to them that beckon the energies of the hurricane in themselves. It is also worth noting that though this album is predominately black-influenced folk metal, the progressiveness of Vintersorg's mid-era lunges forth occasionally. Though the riffing remains fairly simple, the rhythms still alternate and change as expected in progressive metal in several songs, namely "Ur stjärnstoft är vi komna."

Orkan is the second part in a planned elemental quadrilogy (embodying the element of air, though water seems far more fitting); its immediate predecessor, Jordpuls, (the element of earth) began the quadrilogy. Though Jordpuls and Orkan are of quite similar style, Orkan stands as my favorite of the elements so far, even if only marginally so. Actually, Orkan is almost a combination of Jordpuls and Cosmic Genesis, which is pretty much what I wanted out of this album. Put simply: this is a great release and a welcome addition to the folk metal genre, as Vintersorg's albums always are. With the supreme Borknagar release earlier this year (Urd), Vintersorg is looking to have two of his projects making my end of the year top album list simultaneously. Throw this in the increasingly large pile of excellent records in which the great Mr. V takes part.

And to think, he's due to release the next element next year. I'm almost bursting with excitement.