Review: Vanir – Aldar Rök

Vanir is a six man outfit from Denmark, releasing their fourth full-length album since the band came to existence in 2009. During those six years quite a few changes in personnel have taken place, converting Vanir’s music style as they came and went. Over the years they have evolved from folk metal complete with associated (semi-)acoustic instruments to more death metal oriented Viking metal. Despite the fact most folk elements have disappeared from Vanir’s music, there is one aspect from folk they certainly did not abandon, and that is lyrical themes. With folk metal comes, almost mandatory, mythology as lyrical theme, and Vanir are no exception to that unwritten rule. However, they do not stick to just mythology, their lyrics also cover important historical events and wars. Although the lyrics are hard to decipher at times due to the grunting vocals, which are great I might add, the song titles are pretty much self-explanatory when it comes to the lyrical themes.

Vanir wastes no time making clear they have strayed from the folky path they had chosen in the beginning. Aldar Rök opens with Black Legion, a song with strong black metal influences. The ominous intro, the haunting choirs and keys (played by Stefan Dujardin), the excellent drum lines by Daniel Kronskov, the raw vocals by Martin Håkan, all these elements merge into a song that will echo in the back of your head for quite some time. Pretorian, the next song, is almost the complete opposite of its predecessor and shows the viking side of Vanir. The dark atmosphere has been ditched in favor of a more clear sound adding a victory song kind of feel to it. With a repeating, pleasant guitar riff, a decent solo and, again, Håkan’s grunts this song is exactly what I’d imagine a viking metal song should sound like. Energetic, boosting, preparing you to enter any battle with a grin of determination and invincibility on your face. It’s a good thing we don’t live in the middle ages anymore…

They hang on to the viking style for some more with Unrepentant, which has some distinct death metal elements like the rhythm section and the riffs, and Broken Throne, a slightly slower paced song with great guitar work by, I assume, both guitarists, Kirk Backarach and Philip Kaaber. Next up is Wrath of Sutr, which combines all influences into one of the best songs on the album. The tempo changes, the humming bass played by Lars Bundvad, the double bass supported riffing, truly an impressive composition, leaving the daunting task of keeping up the quality for its successor, The Serpent. No use for an intro then, so The Serpent starts at full speed from second one, erupting into a juicy headbanger. The perfect way to warm the audience for the last song, called Drukvisen, which can be loosely translated as ‘Drinking Song’. And you know what? That is exactly what it is. If you weren’t training your neck muscles yet, you’re bound to do so when this song plays. High speed, cheerful, a great ending to Aldar Rök in my opinion.

All things considered Aldar Rök is a solid album, located in the viking section of metal, with some interesting elements from folk, death and black metal. Not really innovative or particularly original, which is never disturbing by the way, but the black metal elements, which have been expertly added, put something extra into the album giving it a little advantage over quite a few other albums from that genre. Every single song can easily stand any test of criticism or quality and the same goes for every single band member when it comes to their playing and singing skills. On top of that there’s a few gems to be found on the album as well in the form of Black Legion, Broken Throne and Wrath of Sutr. The production is good, although I feel the rhythm section is a bit thin here and there. Fans of the genre can buy this one unheard and if you’re new to viking metal this is as good a start as any. One tiny point of criticism, though: You only get 32 minutes of entertainment.

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