One of Germanic heathenry’s newer voices is also one of it’s most skilled. Just because a band releases a disc on their own does not mean it is a demo.  Some bands release a demo and call it a self released full length, implying quality, other band release a full length and call it a demo implying a lack of polish. Helrunar calls Grátr a demo but I have to strongly disagree. I have always considered Grátr a full length debut album. And now Grátr is back, blessed with new cover art and a full pressing backed by Lupus Lounge. For those that have been off planet the past many years Helrunar is a Germanic pagan band excelling in folk tinged Norwegian styled black metal. Grátr was their debut album, self released in  a limited edition of 500 CDs back in 2003.

I was lucky enough to stumble upon the band in time to get a copy before it was sold out, therefore I have had the pleasure of spinning this disc for many years now. I picked up the excellent split with Nachtmahr as well, which I believe is now also sold out but don’t fret, the first 3,000 copies of this reissue will be presented in a graceful Digipak containing a bonus CD with  “Hauch wird Sturm”, the song from that split. More on that later.

All the elements are here, everything that makes Helrunar special. This band arrived fully formed, no mishmash of ideas expressed in a haphazard manner while trying to discover their identity. they did all that in their rehearsal room long before they ever sat down in the recording studio. “Powerful production values”  says Lupus Lounge, and that is indeed true. Near perfect, especially considering this was a home studio self release project. Excellent songs on this disc that stand the test of time include “Grátr”, “Seelenwinter” “Raune mit der Tiefe” and “Kvasirs Blut”, the later of which is a cross between a chant and clean singing the likes of which were later perfected on “Baldrs drauma.” It definitely fits the ritualistic requirement. The rest of the tracks are full blown pagan black songs, mid paced romp with charges led by the drums with many introspective moments with delicate guitarwork and a backing voice that adds intensity instead of buffoonery. Oft repeated riffs tie themes together and the deep spoken voice adds a commanding presence to the harsh style, and all the vocals are readily comprehensible.

The songs deal with subconscious pagan memory and the glorified past, eschewing the modern world. Before I get too much further I should point out that a German band promoting use of the runes should in no way bring to mind images of Nazi ideology. I’ll let Skald Draugir express it himself, “But of course, pagan Germanic spirituality and runes have NOTHING to do with the Third Reich. It was another great crime of the fascists that they abused and dirtied our cultural roots, today we can’t have this natural, self-evident way to deal with our past like people from other nations have.”

As a bonus you get “Hauch Wird Sturm” from the above mentioned split, minus the excellent packaging, alas. This is a killer fast song with all the trimmings, an essential Helrunar track that was worth the price of the split and makes the purchase of this re-release a no brainer with it’s inclusion. Harsh and beautiful, clean  production, great clean vocal performance, memorable guitar riffs and over the top punishment from the drums at the full throttle moments, what else could you ask for? Think “Baldr” from Baldr ok Íss. Also on display is new cover art, as said above , but I’m rather fold of the old cover. I also like the interior layout of the old booklet with the runes clearly visible behind the German translations. I don’t know is that is repeated in the new booklet or not.

For more that thirty years Germany has been one of the main go to centers of metal. Continuing the tradition of great German metal bands, Nagelfar has run its course, Helrunar is ready to take their place.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Grimulfr
June 11th, 2009


  1. Commented by: Shane

    Hey, great review Grim!

  2. Commented by: Chris S.

    Great review, makes me want a copy NOW!! I have 2 other albums (Frostnacht, Baldr ok Íss) and I have to say i was blown away by this band. Frostnacht is a killer CD, listened to the whole thing twice the first time i popped it in my CD player on a whim. Hopefully this band get some of the recognition from the metal folk that they deserve.

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