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Ethereal Aural Landscaping - 95%

krampus, May 23rd, 2010

"Towards the Frozen Stream" is the warmest of the "atmospheric winter" type black metal albums I've heard. Despite traits that are generally associated with aural coldness like reptilian vocals and sharp buzzing distortion, each of the album's 8 tracks contains a beating heart trying to thaw its way out of a frigid Finnish winter. The emphasis here is on ethereal beauty and hopeful majesty, not depressive darkness or despair. I've heard people compare Vordven to Paysage d'Hiver before, and I must say that these two bands are a great example of comparing apples to tangerines.

Like many other atmospheric black metal albums, "Towards the Frozen Stream" employs ambient keyboards, female vocals and hypnotic riffs mixed rather low. The melodies are most noticeably carried by the keyboards; listeners only looking for abundant displays of technical guitar prowess will not be blown away. General production value is somewhat comparable to "For All Tid" by Dimmu Borgir, a little fuzzy but still clear and delightfully lacking the overblown crispness of many modern recordings. Pardon the far-reaching analogy: if it were a photograph, "Towards The Frozen Stream" would have softened edges and a slight glossy effect.

The whole album glows radiantly with not a filler track in sight, nor the rage and aggression that is present in much of the black metal genre. Indeed, it seems like a long stretch to place Vordven in the same genre as other well known Finnish black metal acts like Beherit or Impaled Nazarene. Every piece of subpar kvlt trash with a forest on its album cover that claims to possess "majesty" really ought to look up to Vordven for achieving what all the forest-album-cover clones attempt to do. Have a go at any of the songs on this album, close your eyes, and you will see a vast expanse of nature covered in powdery snow. No other album I've listened to has achieved "ethereal winter" as effectively as "Towards the Frozen Stream." Indeed, it is ever so slightly heartbreaking to admit that perhaps this 1999 release is the pivotal breaking point for this species of black metal. 2001's "Woodland Passage" was still quite good, but nowhere near as sweepingly majestic as its predecessor.

Recommended for anyone to whom the buzzwords "epic," "majesty," "forest," and "fantasy" appeal. This album is the musical equivalent of Tolkien's Rivendell; there's even a song on it with that same name.

An unknown Gem! - 96%

Paganbasque, April 28th, 2010

So many times we feel tired about the tremendous quantity of mediocre bands which settle the mainstream metal scene, obtaining an unmerited notoriety as other more qualified musical projects spend their miserable careers in the deepest anonimity. Unfortunately an uncountable number of bands has had this unjust destiny, being a clear example a Finnish band called Vordven, a marvellous group which I would like to rescue from the obscurity. Vordven released in the fall of 90´s a freezing anthem called “Towards the Frozen Stream”, one of the most unknown gems of the underground black metal scene.

After a short intro the album begins unbeatably with a song called “Moonlight in the norther sky”, a beautiful piece of music where you appreciate the absolut relevance in the album of the sumptuous, epic and dark keyboards which dominate every composition in this CD. The raspy vocals and the fuzzy guitars complement perfectly the work of the keys and an evoking and misterious female voice perfectes the result. “Dream of Northside” is another nordic anthem which combines mid-tempos parts with fast-paced ones, here the keys play again the leading role with a beautiful melody. Furthermore, the excellent combination of female and male vocals enriches this song that, as the whole album, breaths cold, snow and pure darkness but always with a distinctive touch of epicism. In the last part an excellent guitar melody is perfectly combined with the vocals and keys in one of the few moments where the rhythmic section of this album have a real relevance. “Rivendell” is one of the outstanding moments of the album, it begins with a spoken introduction accompanied by a solemn key melody, taking into account this and that the lyrics are about TLOTR it is an unnecessary obviousness to say that this song is astonishingly epic. After the commented introduction the screamy vocals and raw guitars appear accompained by the tireless and incomparable presence of the keyboards, the majestic atmosphere is absolute with the adding of a choir in the background and Pirita´s lovely vocals, simply awesome!.

But my favourite song is the sixth one called “Eternal storm”, in my opinion is the best one closely followed by “Rivendel” and “Dream of northside”. It begins with stormy sounds and a sinister pealing of bells which are abruptly broken by a cavernous voice and the attack of fast-paced drums, haunting keys and excellent guitar riffs. The first part is very straighforward but suddenly it stops with Mika´s terryfing screams, in this moment a majestic key and a melancholic guitar melodies appear, the grandeur of this part can´t be explained, only listening it in the middle of a cold forest can express the endless epicism of this extract, then the initial fast part comes back an finalizes this extraordinary song.

My overall impression is that the album maintains an excellent level from the begining to the end without space to mediocre compositions and creating an extraordinary cold an epic atmosphere. Words can´t define properly this masterpiece of wintry anthems and I only hope that someday Vordven will receive the deserved appreciation from the metal scene. A must have for anyone who loves music with quality.