Life has a funny way of doing things. One minute you are in a band that has released one of the better albums of 2003, you’ve just signed new record deal, and then you die. And while, the rumors circulating around the apparent suicide of Windir’s frontman, Valfar, certainly will effect the writing of this review (even though I’ve had this fine album for some time now), I’ll try to be as objective as possible.

Being new to Norway’s Windir, I was intrigued by the artwork and song titles, hoping for some epic, majestic Viking metal. I wasn’t far wrong, as Windir are both epic and majestic, and while certainly not full on Viking metal like Butterfly Temple or Moonsorrow, their catchy black metal has a solid Viking sheen to its steely glow. The black metal aspect of Windir’s sound is that of the polished semi-melodic sort; well produced and sweeping, its main draw is well written memorable often galloping riffs that sit squarely astride the Dissection and early Old mans Child. The pagan/folk visage is far more subtle with some liberal keyboards and a sprinkling of beer hall choirs to aid the heroic riffs, but nothing over the top as Falkenbach; stylistically, it often reminded me of Manegarm’s latest effort Dodsfard.

All of the songs on Likferd are lengthy, epic, glorious hymns; each containing varying traits of blazing speed, mid paced glory and just simply come across as finely crafted, perfectly balanced tracks in their own right (including possibly my favorite riff of the year). Together on an album, they result in perfection across the board. The album starts with  its weakest cut, “Resurrecting the Wild,” that’s no more than a staccato riff repeated over and over with different rhythms pacing the riff, not a great start, but man do things get better. “Martyrium” injects the album’s first Viking atmospheres as it sees the first monkish chants and epic keyboards arise, as the song treads lush pastures and mist peaked mountains. The pace is quickened and controlled as the excellent “Despot” crashes from the woods with teeth bared only to halt its pace for some pace for some rare black metal groovage at 3:33.

Windir are don’t paint themselves into a corner stylistically with their riffs, as the aforementioned riff indicates, from tier seething blastbeats to some strangely un-black metal moments, every riff on Likferd flows like it simply belongs. No where is this more apparent than on the albums standout track “Blodssvik.” An addictive rolling bass line morphs into a driving balls out riff, before exploding into some typically frosty Norwegian blasting. But that’s not the best it if, at its halfway point it settles down a little before unleashing what can only be described as a Viking metal breakdown. At 2:28 a simply mind blowing few moments of head bobbing foot tapping sonic perfection utters forth, and has to be my most repeated riff of 2003. “Fagning” initially follows the albums less than satisfactory opener, but soon opens up into a gloriously grand Viking march, that comes a close second as the albums best moment.

With Likferd Windir looked to have peaked with their songwriting production and delivery, and their subsequent record deal with Tabu records, after three albums Windir appeared to be ready to make a push in the black metal scene. While those around them head of into spacier or industrial territories, Windir seem to be far more aware of black metal’s past than its future and have released of the most satisfying, memorable black metal albums of the last few years that harken back to Norway’s storied black metal lineage. The timing of Valfar’s death count not be worse, and I’ve yet to hear the bands plans, but I hope they build on Likferd and continue Valfar’s legacy.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
March 27th, 2003


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