CD Review: “Reader Of The Runes-Divination” by Elvenking

Elvenking unleash a potent spell of folk metal on its tenth release, Reader Of The Runes-Divination. “Perthro” is a brief piece that opens the album. “Perthro” is the rune of fate and the unknowable. The tribal drums, sorrowful violins and droning vocals convey a sense of mystery and adventure. “Heathen Divine” is an exuberant track with crushing riffs and driving percussion. Guitarists Aydan and Rafahel lay out some great harmonies and solos throughout this track. “Divination” continues the lively tone of this record with a fast tempo and sweeping violins. This is an anthemic track with its hardy chorus and Rafahel’s energetic vocals. The smooth transition in to a tight groove makes this a enjoyable track from start to finish. “The Misfortune Of Virtue” is one of the heaviest tracks on Reader with its melodic death metal riffs and pounding Lancs’ pulverizing drums. Still, there are tranquil moments during the song’s chorus with its lush keyboards and saccharine vocals. The song seamlessly transitions from heavy to soft while maintaining its dark character. “Under The Sign Of The Black Star” is a grandiose track with its baroque guitar riffs and lumbering bass. The music paints a picture of a group on horseback traveling the countryside at night on a quest. “Reader Of The Runes-Book 1” is a near 11 minute epic that concludes the album in splendid fashion. The regal riffs and Aydan’s soaring vocals are underscored by a mid tempo that slows down for the melodramatic chorus. Blastbeats and black metal riffing kickoff the second half of the track before an acoustic guitar relaxes the intense atmosphere. An excellent end to this record that leaves the listener wanting to hear “Book 2.”

Reader Of The Runes is epic, symphonic metal that takes the listener on a journey. Elvenking play lively and passionately throughout the album, throwing out numerous surprises. Each track is lush and textured with several things going on at once but never sounding awkward or pretentious. This is attributed to the brevity of the songs and the album’s overall song order. Production wise, Reader is stellar, with clear quality and excellent guitar and drum tones.

Elvenking cast the right spell with its tenth record. Reader Of The Runes-Divination is a fun, heavy, adventurous record of the highest degree. Fans of symphonic, folk or power metal will certainly enjoy this record with its great musicianship and songwriting. Bravo Elvenking.

Check out the band’s official website here:

https://www.elvenking.net/

CD Review: “Vuur Van Verzet” by Heidevolk

Dutch folk metal outfit Heidevolk unleash its sixth record, Vuur Van Verzet, to commence the new year. The opening track “Ontwaakt” is equal parts pummeling and melodic with a cutting midsection that concludes with a weeping violin. That same stringed instruments opens the following track “Wolf In My Heart.” This catchy track is one of two songs on the album with lyrics in English. There is powerful symbolism on this track as vocalists Lars Nachtbraecker and Jacco Buhnebeest compare the warrior to the wolf. A predator that hunts his prey in the dead of night. It is a fairly straightforward song and thus one of the more accessible songs on Verzet. “Yngwaz Zonen” begins with a simple tribal drum and the group singing. Although I do not understand the lyrics, it evokes a spirit of unity and triumph. One can envision a group of Frankish warriors seated at a campfire recalling past battles. “O, Britannia” is driven by a thrashing riff and upbeat drumming before breaking down in to a grooving midsection replete with chanting and circular guitar solo. Alas, “The Alliance” is the second track sung in English. It opens with stomping drums and staccato riffs intertwined with acoustic guitar. There are several rhythm changes in this song that takes the listener on a journey, but never loses them. The sweeping riff near the song’s end is relentless before acoustic guitars drown it out and peacefully conclude the track. “Tiwaz” is a galloping number named at the rune symbolizing the Norse god Tyr. Tyr is associated with law and heroic glory and this rollicking song would certainly bring a smile to his face. “Gungnir” is the spear of Odin and this percussion driven track is both exuberant and ambitious. The unpredictable riffs complement the brutal drumming and gives the track a sense of urgency in a chaotic battle. A strong track certain to become a fan favorite.

Vuur Van Verzet is a heavy metal lesson in Dutch history. While I am not a Dutch speaker, it caused me to look up several words to understand their meaning. Thus, it is educational for listeners. The Amon Amarth comparisons will certainly come up, if they have not already. However, the Heidevolk’s music differs from its Swedish peers in that there is greater emphasis on traditional music and acoustic guitars. The band successfully mingles soft classical passages with melodic death metal, allowing for a varied sonic texture. Heidevolk is not as heavy as Amon Amarth, but the band is heavy when it wants to be. The songwriting is stellar and the production is crisp, especially with the percussion.

Ultimately, Vuur Van Verzet is for fans of folk, viking and melodic death metal. There is little filler here and each song seamlessly flows from one to the next. Pick this up for a night of headbanging in battle.

 

Check out the band’s website: http://www.heidevolk.com/

CD Review: ‘Winter Thrice’ by Borknagar

Borknagar continues its progressive push on the band’s tenth record Winter Thrice. The band keeps its black metal roots to a minimum. Instead, there is a greater shift towards folk metal and even power metal. The result is a multi-textured record that draws from diverse influences. The opening track and lead single “The Rhymes of the Mountain” meshes pounding drums with baroque style guitars to stellar effect. Vintersorg’s vocals change throughout the song. First, his voice soars like a hawk over a mountain and then morphs into a hellish shriek. The title track blasts through the speakers in galloping fashion. Again, the vocals are a high point as Garm from Ulver takes the lead on this track. The song contrasts between heavy and serene, making it one of the best tracks on the album. The band is more straight ahead on “Cold Runs The River.” The progressive elements are downplayed in favor of bombastic guitars and blastbeats in the middle of the song. The song is not monotonous at all thanks in no small part to the wah-wah guitar leads and gothic chord progressions. The classically structured “When Chaos Calls” pushes through like whips and twists like a winter storm. The double bass drums and dissonant guitars holds the song together while Vintersorg howls like a wolf atop a hill.

The greatest strength of Winter Thrice is the diversity in the songwriting. There are acoustic guitars, blastbeats guttural vocals, and a slight hint of electronica. Borknagar is unconventional in this respect making the album unpredictable but enjoyable. Fans of European metal will probably appreciate Winter Thrice, with its emphasis on melodicism and its classical influence. The record is heavy, but not like the brutality of American death metal. That does not mean American metalheads will not enjoy this record. However, the acoustic guitars and electronic elements may not appeal to some of them.

Winter Thrice is a solid record from one of Norway’s greatest metal bands. The band’s musicianship is amazing and the production is lushand clear. Borknagar are not the same band it was 20 years ago, but that is a good thing as the band continues to push itself. Fans of Children of Bodom, Amorphis and Insomnium will enjoy Winter Thrice. It is the perfect soundtrack for the Winter season.

For more in for on Borknagar, check out the band’s website http://borknagar.com/

CD Review: The Serpent & The Sphere by Agalloch

John Haughm creates haunted melodies and layered little interludes that offer the perfect counterpoint to the harsher and distorted elements.

 

Agalloch-The-Serpent-The-Sphere1Review by David Feltman

It’s been four years since Marrow of the Spirit, and little has changed for Agalloch’s fifth album. The band’s “folk metal” still blends massive progressive arrangements and black metal atmospherics. The music is as beautifully brooding and epically scoped as ever.

 

While the band’s sound hasn’t changed stylistically in its hiatus, the composition and pacing has matured substantially. Unlike Marrow, the tracks are smaller and more spaced out. The band is more willing to adjust tempo to regulate the flow of the album. Rather than assaulting fans with one 15-minute marathon of a song after another, Agalloch makes the songs more digestible. The band uses high-energy black metal blast beats in tracks like “(serpens caput)” and “The Astral Dialogue” to knock fans out of the gloomy haze of meandering monolithic track like “Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation.” Likewise, the acoustic dirges offer breathing room between the snarling, angry bits, giving the album a nice balance.

 

Acoustic guitar is not what one might consider a particularly ”metal” instrument, but Guitarist/Vocalist John Haughm creates haunted melodies and layered little interludes that offer the perfect counterpoint to the harsher and distorted elements. Tracks like “Vales Beyond Dimension” and “Plateau of the Ages” perfectly distill everything exceptional about the band, bringing together both the light and heavy touches in a pensive behemoth compositions that effortlessly bridges one song to another. The instrumental “Plateau of the Ages is particularly dynamic, pairing itself down from grand orchestration to bare minimalism only to build itself back up again.

 

The Serpent & The Sphere offers as good a jumping on point for newcomers as The Mantle and Marrow of the Spirit. While Agalloch may not be offering anything substantially novel, the band has perfected all the elements that raised them to cult status.