While not a 2022 release, we are reviewing a handful of albums we quite enjoyed at the end of 2021 but didn’t have enough time to review. One of those is the outstanding EP from France’s Ainulindalë, titled “Les chroniques d'Arda”. Featuring a combination of dreamy atmospherics, lush epic arrangements and a hefty dose of aggression, this EP nicely introduces a promising outfit.
Combining elements from bands like Enid, Battlelore, Turisas, “Les damnés de Numénor” sets a very regal and effective mood. We particularly like the crafty synths paired with solid screams and epic clean vocals. As “Dagor-nuin-Giliath” and “Le geste de Maeglin” up the tempo, the band nicely unleashes crafty drumming alongside melodic guitars to keep things fluid and the headbanging to the max.
Unleashing a very cohesive and emotional musical experience, today we have Iskander and their third full-length release “Vergezicht”. Perfectly flowing between six tracks and nearly 64 minutes of music, this release combines melancholy, harshness, and dreaminess in a very robust and enjoyable package. Released through Eisenwald, this album showcases a great level of maturity and expert craftsmanship from this Ducth duo.
Opening with the lush acoustic elements of “Gezag”, there is a magical mood that is slowly set until it's nicely contrasted by heavy riffs and harsh vocals. Oozing with melancholy, songs like “Bloeddraad” and “Gewesten der Tijd” perfectly showcase the band’s range and creativity, with tons of unique tempo changes, atmospheric and dreamy passages alongside haunting vocal arrangements. However, the heavy side of the band is always present with furious onslaughts like on “Baken”, making this band comparable to a mixture of Thurisaz and Thyrfing.
After a wait of 8 years, Thyrfing is finally back with their high-octane brand of Viking/Pagan Metal. “Vanagandr” unravels nearly 50 minutes of superbly catchy and highly polished melodic music, just as one would expect from this band. Perfectly mixing precise guitar work with lush atmospherics and firm vocal melodies, this release is as good as it gets in this genre.
Opening with “Döp dem i eld”, we get that vibrant mixture of atmospherics and incisive guitar riffs. Always creating a very epic Folky/Viking vibe while maintaining a hefty dose of heaviness, “Undergångens länkar” and “Fredlös” are prime examples of the band’s duality. We particularly enjoy how the band uses additional instruments to adorn a very powerful guitar-driven musical core like “Järnhand” shows.
With a very well curated roster of artists, Eisenwald surprises us today with Odal and their highly melodic release “Welten Mutter”. Featuring over 47 minutes of crafty Pagan Black Metal, this German outfit manages to carve a unique style out of combining traditional elements with unconventional instruments. If you are into bands like Thyrfing and Månegarm, this is a band that will catch your attention.
Opening with the melodically intense “...um Ewiges zu schaffen”, the band sets a very lively and intense mood with piercing guitars and catchy tempo changes. We particularly enjoy the band’s superbly melodic core, as waves and waves of riffs make tracks like this, and “Hellwach schwelgend”, and “Schattental” very enjoyable. The additional string instruments nicely give that Pagan/Folk BM edge to the music, breaking any monotony and keeping things interesting.
One of the few benefits of working from not being able to travel the last few months is that we have extra time to dig up more promos that make it to our inbox. Back in May we missed the release of Vermilia’s stunning EP “Keskeneräisiä tarinoita”, filled with lush atmospheres and a good eye for crushing aggression as contrast. If you like bands like WITTR, Agalloch, but with a more Pagan/heavier edge, this is a release to check out.
The EP leads off with the very dramatic “Hauras, Kuollut, Kaunis”, a track that slowly builds up with a certain folky vibe and deep clean vocals, creating a very dark and somber atmosphere. Not being shy from heavy riffs and blistering drumming, “Taivas Hiljaa Huutaa” quickly changes the pace to a lively Pagan/Folk Metal style led by firm clean female vocals that suddenly transform into harsh screams. The variety of elements makes this song be quite enjoyable and diverse, while delivering an extra level of catchiness.
Unleashing one of the most cathartic albums of 2020, today we have October Falls and their latest opus “A Fall of an Epoch”. Seven years since their last release, the band returns with their blend of Atmospheric/Folky Black Metal that perfectly combines elements from bands like Ensiferum with the more vicious onslaughts of outfits like Behexen and Horna. With a hefty dosage of brutality and crafty introspective passages, this release will command your full attention for nearly 55 minutes.
The album kicks off with the bleak acoustic guitars of the title track, this solemn peace suddenly transforms in all-out- brutality with crushing riffs, blistering drums, and punishing screams. Within the all-out pummeling onslaught, there is a very nice melodic delineation that has that Folk/Pagan Metal vibe as it contrasts with melodic passages. On a slower tone, “The Endtimes Rising” delivers a nice blend of incisive guitar riffs and harsh screams, perfectly framed on a more melodic drum track.
As one of the most expect releases of 2020, today we have Iceland/Germany’s Árstíðir lífsins and their “Saga á tveim tungum II: Eigi fjǫll né firðir” release. With a very enigmatic and ritualistic approach, this band’s Black Metal onslaughts are perfectly flanked by rich lyrics and lush mood setting atmospheric passages. If you are looking for an intense release that sets a very dark tone by mixing plenty of different elements with crushing Black Metal, you do not want to miss out on this one.
Building an eerie atmosphere in its two first tracks, the band creates a killer anticipation for the ‘heavier’ stuff, as “Sem járnklær nætr dragask nærri” rolls. With a relentless drumming backdrop and pummeling riffs, this track sets a very punishing mood that is perfectly complemented by creepy choir arrangements and a sinister pace. With “Gamalt ríki faðmar þá grænu ok svǫrtu hringi lífs ok aldrslita” the band keeps their destructive momentum going with waves of energetic guitar riffs and crafty tempo changes. As the song progresses, you get a very epic vibe that usually Pagan BM bands manage to craft.
Always surprising us with their excellent taste in music, LifeForce Records is prepared to unleash “Sateet palata saavat”, Finland’s Vorna’s latest effort. Magically combining elements of Folk/Pagan/Black Metal in a very atmospheric palette of sounds, this release delivers over 50 minutes of superbly melodic music. The closest band to Vorna’s sound that comes to mind has to be Eternal Tears of Sorrow and their highly diverse sound. This should let you know you are in for a treat with this album.
After the traditional mood setting intro, “Toinen” delivers the first onslaught of atmospheric brilliance. Creating a very moody and mystical atmosphere, the band pummels the listener with superb drumming, heavy riffs, and harsh vocals. The swings between lush melodic keyboard arrangements, harsh/clean vocals, and intense riffing, are just magical, creating a very immersive and engaging experience as heard on both “Toinen” and “Syvyydet”.
Hailing from the Netherlands, today we have Pagan Metal outfit Nodfyr and their highly engaging and very promising two-song EP titled “In Een Andere Tijd”. Bringing back a certain sound and vibe that we haven’t heard since the late 90’s with bands like Yearning and a few of their Holy Records label mates. Mixing epic clean singing with lush atmospheric elements and a tight Pagan Metal core, this band will certainly catch your attention and standout from the rest.
Led by the highly distinctive vocals of Joris van Gelre (Wederganger, ex-Heidevolk), the album starts with a very basic and yet catchy melody that is perfectly enhanced by Folky guitar leads and very regal clean vocals. The additional string instruments and vocal arrangements add a very lush atmospheric layer to this track, creating a truly memorable and engaging song that will get stuck in your head for days.
Featuring a very unique mixture of elements, today we have Æra and their debut EP titled “Of Forsworn Vows”. Combining elements from 90’s Black Metal with more modern Pagan Metal elements, this release unleashes over 20 minutes of highly addictive music that is quite epic and engaging. For fans of bands like Borknagar and early Emperor to outfits like Thyrfing, this release will certainly fit very well on your collection.
Opening with the powerful atmospheric elements of “An Affirmation of Forsworn Vows”, the band makes a bit splash with tense keyboards and a very melodic core. The riffing reminds us of bands like Falkenbach, which is straightforward but very melodic in nature. The vocals are quite fitting and add that extra layer of power to this impressive song as it weaves back and forth between different tempos.