To the majority of fans of viking/folk metal Vanir is a familiar name and really needs no introduction. However, for the rare few that haven’t heard Vanir’s work yet and for those that are new to the genre, I’ll introduce them. The band was formed in 2009 in Roskilde, Denmark and named after a group of Gods from the Norse mythology associated with wisdom, fertility and clairvoyance. Right from the start it was clear the guys were dead serious about Vanir, releasing a steady, ongoing stream of high quality releases, resulting in an fairly large discography which so far consists of four full-lengths and a demo. Their favored genre is viking/folk metal with influences taken from the death and black metal corners of the metal world. Over the years they have grown into a force to be reckoned with within this particular genre. Initially they mixed quite a few more traditional instruments into their peppered, powerful metal, giving their music a somewhat cheerful atmosphere. However, the use of those instruments, like the hurdy gurdy and the bagpipes, is gradually phased out over the years, as if they were shedding their folk metal skin little by little. Their present work is best classified as much darker, more basic viking metal. Of course the term ‘basic’ is to be used loosely here, there really isn’t much basic about Vanir’s music. Anyway, complemented with lyrical themes that cover Norse mythology, historical leaders and battle bravery, modern-day Vanir is pretty much the embodiment of viking metal. Having released their previous full-length, Aldar Rök, some two years ago, Vanir’s time table tells us it’s about time for new work. And lo and behold, in a few weeks their fifth full-length album, Allfather, will be unleashed on the expectantly metal community. Now consisting of, in no particular order of course, Martin Holmsgaard Håkan as vocalist, Phillip Kaaberas as rhythm guitarist, Kirk Backarach as lead guitarist, Lars Bundvad as bassist, Daniel ‘Luske’ Kronskov as drummer and Stefan Dujardin as keymaster, the guys from Vanir try to take another step towards conquering the world with this release.
Allfather brings us a tribute to the old Danish king Svend Tveskæg packed in eleven songs spanning a little under an hour. Filled with power-packed melodic metal and lyrically supported in both Danish and English, it’s a tribute worthy of a king. Opener Væringjar immediately sets the tone and is the perfect indication of what you are about to uncover. Its pounding rhythm, expertly framed by the strong rhythm section is perfect to get you fired up and you’ll have no problem whatsoever imagining an army marching into battle. And then things take a more sinister and dark turn when the first tones of Svoldir drip from your speakers, a much slower, much more oppressing song with distinct black metal influences. The change of atmosphere doesn’t influence the quality of play one bit though, the guys from Vanir seem equally at ease in the darker corners of music as they are in the more cheerful, brighter parts. Everything strikes me as much heavier in this song, while Martin’s vocals are sounding downright threatening, quite a change from the album opener. Yet underneath all this heaviness the viking roots remain audible, keeping things greatly manageable for all metal fans, rather than ‘just’ the fans of darker types of metal. No offense of course. By far the darkest song, save perhaps album closer Gravfaerd, Svoldir leaves quite an impression.
But then it’s back to business as usual when the light is turned back on, well at little at least, as The Final Stand blasts from the speakers, the first of a handful of powerful, energy-packed songs that fills the majority of the remainder of this release. Whether it’s the deep, growling vocals, the raging guitars, regularly bursting into a flaming solo, the roaring bass or the relentlessly pounding drums, everything breathes quality. Especially Shield Wall ticks all the boxes, as far as I’m concerned the pinnacle of this release. Get the entire Vanir cast on steroids and this is what you get I suppose. Not exactly a punishment by the way, on the contrary. However, that is not the only thing standing out on Allfather, because Fejd emphatically calls for particular attention as well. It’s a song that has quite a few characteristics of a power ballad, yes really, even the clean vocals are present. Here and there… And to top things off there’s the aforementioned Gravfaerd, ending this album on a dark, at times, mostly due to the vocals, rather vile sounding note.
Getting to the top is easy, staying there is the hard part and with Allfather Vanir makes a serious, in my opinion successful effort to do just that. They have evolved, or matured if you will, that is for you to judge, from a cheerful folk metal band into a full-blown viking metal band. Now, don’t expect an album that completely innovates the viking metal genre, don’t expect to be surprised by novelties every single song, Vanir plays viking metal as we know it. Period. And they’re damn’ good at that. What you can expect is an awesome album filled with top-notch, black-edged viking metal. Nothing more, but certainly nothing less either. And let’s be honest, who needs more? Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel time and time again they prefer to stay true to the roots of their present genre and manage to compose fantastic songs within those set boundaries. This actually makes this album the considerable force it really is, in my opinion at least, and thus making this a more than impressive release. In fact, I think it’s so good it’s likely to appear in my year list of 2019, even though the year hasn’t even started yet. No need to think this through, this is a must-hear.