Rökkr
Rökkr

It’s not often you’ll stumble across a band whose biggest influences are listed as “Norlandera Bathory, Tolkein and Thin Lizzy.” But that’s exactly what Chaos Records says is served up by American one-man black metal project, Rökkr… or as I’ve been calling it, because I’m a child, Al Rökkr.

“That’s what’s going on around the blackened wasteland of Mordor, here’s what’s happening, in your neck of the Entwoods!”

Sorry.

ANYWAY, as it turns out, this is about as apt a description of a band as I’ve heard in a while, which is just as well because honestly, the combination sounded pretty juicy to me. And it is! Epic, building compositions filled with those sweet Thin Lizzy guitar melodies we all know and love. Come on, what’s not to love about that, right?

We get our first taste of the delicious Thin Lizzy-isms about halfway through “Ravens Wings,” where, after a plodding, building intro, guitarist and vocalist Kyle House (also of Decrepisy) busts out those signature harmonized guitar melodies that fit the mood of the track so well. They carry the way into the first of many impressive solos that are found all throughout the album. It’s a great table setter of a track that really gives you a good glimpse into what the project is all about.

From there, Rökkr keeps its foot firmly planted in a mid-paced  wheelhouse that keeps your head banging while House continues to layer in those epic melodies that do indeed recall the work of Quorthon’s Viking days. In fact, you can really take Nordland, put it side-by-side with Rökkr, and the direct similarities pretty much just jump right out at you. The pacing and bouncy, chugging riffs of “Oath of Blood” are bang on with the classic “Nordland,” the only huge difference being House’s grunting death metal vocal approach – which, to my ears, is actually an improvement over Quorthon’s cleans (they were fine, but hardly the strength of those records).

Direct comparisons aside, Rökkr does keep things decidedly heavier throughout than Nordland’s more atmospheric leanings. No soundscapes of woodland forests or babbling streams to be found here, and certainly no acoustics. Just a whole lot of heavy, sometimes bordering on doomy riffs that, admittedly, could use a change of pace here and there to keep things fresh – especially given the length of these tracks. Aside from the opener (3:13) and epic closer (10:22!), everything is hovering around the 7-minute mark. That’s a LOT of mid-paced rumbling in one sitting. That said, the riffs, melodies and compositions are compelling enough to keep this from become at all a chore to listen to, especially with all of the really good lead work adding a good amount of spice to the experience.

I don’t know what the long-term plan is for Rökkr – whether this is becoming a main project or just something fun to fill in the gaps between House’s other gigs. Given the outright Bathory worship, I’m inclined to believe this is a pure passion project, and that’s just fine by me. We can all use a little more time and energy to put into the things that bring us the most joy, and one thing is clear – Rökkr is absolutely a product of a lot of love and attention to detail. Given how much Bathory, and in particular those Nordland albums had an influence on my young life, I’m thrilled to its to find projects like this paying tribute. Can’t wait to see where this goes.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
January 4th, 2022

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