North Star

These are the kinds of reviews that are only as hard as you want to make them. Here you’ve got a band celebrating its 25th year of making music with brand new material, and over that time they’ve never really missed a step – becoming true legends and pioneers of epic, bombastic Viking metal. Sure, their sound has morphed some over the years, taking the time to build and refine their craft from their more heavily folk-influenced beginnings, to the huge, Viking-meets-Black-n-Roll sound they pump out today, but the general core has pretty much remained the same. So taking all of that into consideration, there’s really only two questions that need to be asked:

“Has anything changed on North Star?” Nope, not really.

“Is that a bad thing?” My friend, you know as well as I do that it is not. Thank the fucking Gods.

If you haven’t kept track with the band or this is somehow your first trip with them, hop on board! You’re gonna love it. To make a direct comparison, it’s kinda like taking a band like Vreid and pumping them up with arena-friendly, fist pumping anthems. Indeed, North Star may be the band’s most widely-appealing, ready-for-the-big-stage offering yet, but if you’re waiting for me to complain about it or mark it as the beginning of the end for these guys, don’t bother wasting your time. This album is just way too fun and way too catchy to deserve any of that kind of talk. Right out of the gate, “The Blood and the Iron” sees the band putting everything that makes them so awesome right on display – a blackened, blistering opening riff, followed immediately by a bouncy, crowd-friendly break that will make you want to clap your hands in the air and shout “HEY! HEY! HEY!” only to launch back into some rumbling, Sognametal-inspired black metal that will get you windmilling in your cars and living rooms and offices in short order. It’s all so upbeat and punchy that you can’t help but have a smile on your face.

The tone set from the beginning is a theme that carries throughout the album. The more radio-friendly tracks like “Stars” and “West Coast Groove” lean more into the catchier side of the band’s focus, while both still providing a good deal of groovy heft and some really excellent solo guitarwork. Meanwhile, tracks like the EXCELLENT “Ascension” (my favorite song of 2021 thus far) and “Listen to the Graves” lean a little more on the darker side of things, delivering punishing double-bass backed riffs and catchy melodies in equal measure – the former being a fantastic example of how great songwriting and simple, but perfectly executed riffs can be just as impactful and effective as any virtuosic wizardry.

At this point in their career, this is probably the band’s defining feature – excellent songcraft. Every track, every little detail is beautifully arranged and woven together to make for a thoroughly immersive and enjoyable listening experience – the great little synth flourishes layered over the bass line on “Chasing the Serpent,” the great sing-along chorus of the Amon Amarth-inspired “Higher Fire” and righteous harmonized soloing on “Echos in Blood,” there’s so many great ingredients on this record that all add up to a highly memorable, impeccably executed final product that shows every bit of its 25 years-worth of experience. You may not necessarily get completely blown away by any individual song or moment, but every minute of it as absolutely capable of seeping into your brain and sticking around for the long haul.

If you feel the need to be particularly TRVE KVLT, sure, you can go ahead and complain that maybe Einherjer have embraced a little more tightly to a sound that will be perhaps more appealing to more people. If that’s your take, so be it, but go ahead and take your corpsepaint-soaked tears elsewhere cuz I ain’t here for it. This world needs more joy in it, and this album has plenty to offer. I won’t get into the business of trying to place this anywhere on the list of Einherjer albums – for a band that really hasn’t hit very many sour notes over their career, it seems sort of a moot point. The takeaway here to really appreciate is simply that we now have more of this band’s work to enjoy, and that is MORE than good enough for me. Do yourself a solid and raise your horn to celebrate this band’s big milestone with another fantastic album. Well done, gents.


[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
March 10th, 2021


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