Einherjer
Norrøn

After a three year warmup spell upon reforming we finally have a new Einherjer album in our mitts: Norrøn. The offering Frode and Gerhard made at Quorthon’s grave was a good one. Harsher, darker, with overlaying melodic leads that are unencumbered and memorable. They are picking up where they left off, which leaves them more blackened than their contemporaries, who changed with the times.

Before I delve into the inside I’ll give a nod to the outside, nice Renathe Bryn cover art graces us with its presence. Now lets pop open the case and get to the prize. If you think Viking metal is drunken caroling around a campfire clinking glasses and raucous choruses you, thankfully, are in the wrong place.

At once you will find that this is not the same mindset that replaced Rune with an upbeat happy Ragnar, nor is it the get back to harsher Norwegian Native Art style when Frode dominated vocally. The vocals are harsh, low, and more in the realm of chanting than the melodic singing that has plagued folk metal of late. Einherjer could be labeled both Viking metal and Folk metal I suppose but Folk metal has evolved so far away from the scope of trendsetters Einherjer that the moniker no longer fits and Viking metal has become a catch all term for lyrical themes instead of a singular musical vision. This album seems like an attempt to pull back the transgressions of the past decade and return Viking metal to its darker more sinister beginning while still employing some epic Bathory grandeur and copious ‘folkish’ melodies that Einherjer are rightfully known and respected for. In other words it is business as usual for Einherjer, ignore all trends.

Do everything without flash, it’s never been about high speed picking. For example there is a great acoustic-led ballad, majesty Bathory style. Their melodic sensibilities are intact but toned down a bit, not center stage full time. The rumble of drums and crunch of rhythm guitar assert themselves with great regularity.

I still think Rune was the perfect Einherjer voice but Frode does what he does quite well. A bit harsher even this time. The clean vocals have a rough edge, which is appreciated, and the chants/chorus parts therefore have a ritualistic aspect instead of the folk metal drink along aspect. This time out all in Norwegian for the first time. Vocals are lower in the mix than on Blot.

It is always a pleasure to hear prominent bass guitar. The guitar tone is lower, the distortion is greater, and the bass is louder, all playing into this darker, rougher portrayal, something Einherjer obviously has had success with in the past. These are not anthemic songs, they are moody and ritualistic. What really sets the tone for the album is not the sound quality or the understated vocal delivery or the guitar tone, but the fact that they put up a thirteen minute song as the album intro, powerful song, excellent statement.

I like it better than the swansong of 2003 and it sounds like a band refreshed and ready to romp but I’m not yet ready to place it on par with the great Dragons of the North and earlier incarnation. Of the six songs several are very strong and a few not so. Favorites are “Norrøn Kraft”, “Varden Brenne” and “Malmting”.

“Norrøn Kraft” is thirteen minutes long with a slow pace and sparse phrasing. It is totally absorbing. Distorted guitars carry the load, often notes are allowed to decay completely without overriding the sound with more notes. The ‘clean’ backing voice carries a haunting aspect that I’d label spiritual. The melody at the ten minute mark is pure Einherjer. On “Naglfar” they are on the march, the ship approaches out of the fog. “Alu Alu Laukar” is harsh gang chanting and pointedly simple drumming, and it gets monotonous. A guaranteed pit pleaser. Half the crowd will shout along while the other half beats each other’s snot out. “Varden Brenne” is Quorthon magic. Very effective use of backing vocals, nice 70’s style guitar leads, yes it works. The layers of vocals drive this song but if stripped out this would still be a keeper as an instrumental. “Malmting” at once sounds quite familiar. It’s 1993 all over again, only Rune is missing. The extended instrumental ending is fabulous mood altering stuff that really sets you up for “Balladen Om Bifrost”. This song puts Bathory back in Viking metal. It will give you goosebumps, all you upstarts pay attention, this is how in integrate a chorus.

It is great to hear them do an album that I’m sure is not what most fans were hoping for, and I think the band is more vital and vibrant for doing so. If you love the darker, blacker side of the back catalog this disc is for you, and if you prefer their lighter, more folkish side dig in as well, both are represented with distinction on Norrøn. They are still willing to kick jesus in the ass but now they want to do it without tongue in cheek.

Norrøn is the old friend you have not heard from in eight years and after forty one minutes and twenty two seconds it is like you never parted company. So look up an old friend and bring along this disc as a gift.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Grimulfr
September 21st, 2011

Comments

  1. Commented by: Apollyon

    I’ve been waiting for this album for years but I can’t get my head fully around it. It almost sounds like it’s been completely funded with a grant from some Norwegian Cultural Fund. Oddly, rather than bringing Bathory (and such) into mind, I felt this was more close to Falconer and Hollenthon… more so for the songwriting and atmosphere than for the actual music.

    “Alu Alu Laukar” makes me want to combine the words viking, Euro, techno, disco. Truly the biggest ‘what the fuck’ moment on the album. It wouldn’t be too out of place at the Eurovision song contest, that’s for sure.

    Biggest fault of the album is that it didn’t bring Ragnar Vikse back. The addition of his voice could have spiced up the songs even more.


  2. Commented by: Grimulfr

    “Alu Alu Laukar” …Truly the biggest ‘what the fuck’ moment on the album.”

    definately skipable, an eyebrow raiser to be sure.

    “Biggest fault of the album is that it didn’t bring Ragnar Vikse back.”

    Back when Ragnar joined I thought that was the biggest what the fuck moment, it took me quite awhile to get used to him, and then he was gone.


  3. Commented by: Clauricaune

    My favorite here is “Atte Pa Malmtings Blodige Voll”: damn good old folk melody. I’m really enjoying this album.

    I see what Mikko means with this being similar to Falconer and the like, but I think this still has enough of the usual viking vibe to be called Einherjer. And, “Alu Alu Laukar” aside (what were they thinking?), I find those Falconer-ish moments much more enjoyable than what most of those bands have put out.


  4. Commented by: Cynicgods

    I despise Falconer yet I liked what I heard from Einherjer in the past. Will I enjoy this? We shall see…


  5. Commented by: Apollyon

    Probably as I’m not saying that Einherjer sound like Falconer on the new album as, in fact, the stuff sounds like Einherjer. It’s just that there seems to be some similarities in how both bands deal with certain folk aesthetics.


  6. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Heard it, liked it. Done deal. Not album of the year material, but solid Viking/black metal performed competently.

    Unrelated random thought popping into my head while hearing this: “God, that Frode sure sounds like Satyr sometimes.” :P


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