For those that are known to dwell in the realm of the blackened Viking metal there is no need for further introduction of the subject of my current review. For those that are not, Helheim (Realm of the dead), the band we’re talking about here, has been around for almost three decades and have spent a substantial part of that as one of the leading bands in their particular genre. Being formed in 1992, Helheim consists of vocalist/bassist V’gandr, vocalist/guitarist H’grimnir, guitarist Reichborn and al-rounder Hrymr, who takes care of every other aspect of Helheim’s music. The quartet has racked up plenty of experience in those years, showcased and proven by the arm-long rep sheet that holds 15 titles, 11 of which are full-length albums. The last addition to the list, a full-length called WoduridaR, a reference to Odin, will receive my undivided attention in this review. According to the accompanying press sheet the guys have decided to return to their roots with WoduridaR, but knowing Helheim is no stranger to some experimenting within their musical preference, this one could go either way. Needless to say I am curious to find out where we will be headed this time. The one thing I do know beforehand, considering their previous work, is that my eardrums will most likely going to be exposed to some high quality tunes.
We all know opening songs tend to set the tone for the rest of the release, so judging by the incredibly harsh start of Vilje av stål, which unleashes raging, angry black metal tunes onto the world, I brace myself for a rough journey into the abyss. Helheim wastes little time unveiling their intentions it seems, staying true to the promise they made in the press sheet. Even though the song curbs a little later on in the track, the early black metal vibe is and remains distinctly present. However, there is more to Helheim’s vision on music than ‘just’ old school inspired black metal as, even in the midst of the rage, the melodiousness is never far away. Often disguised, certainly, but still present. In fact that seems to be the recipe for the entire release: blackened Viking metal that is heavily influenced by the old school black metal the guys played at the start of their career, mixed with various levels of melodiousness and topped with a generous amount of a dark, sinister atmospheric sauce. The latter is partly stirred up by soundbites and background melody lines in various forms that, with various intent and intensity, actually determine the vibe of the song. Try the twisted, haunting atmosphere the angry rasping vocals combined with the spooky guitars create in Litil vis madr for example. Or the interesting soundscapes that, though seemingly weird and unfitting in themselves, actually complement the music like in Åndsfilosofen. Or the bombastic, almost timpani-like drums in Tankesmed. Or… well, you get the idea.
This release is riddled with these more or less subtle, more or less striking details, turning the in essence already well-thought-out and solid compositions into separate entities. I can give you many more examples, going on for paragraph after paragraph, but you know what? I’m not going to, you are just going to have to listen for yourself. I guarantee you it’ll be worth it. The years of experience among the guys clearly show as every single track shines with conviction. They have combined these tracks into an amazing symphony that will tickle each and every nerve in your body and that will make you feel appropriately miserable and satisfactory delighted at the same time. It seems to me that the decision to go back to their roots, promise fulfilled by the way, was the best idea Helheim could have conjured up. They don’t come much better than this.