Thyrfing - Hels Vite

27 de dez de 2009


Thyrfing - Hels Vite

In true Viking fashion, Sweden's Thyrfing have soldiered on despite massive lineup changes and uncertainty over the band's future. Latest effort Hels Vite reflects this, cloaking the band's epic and militant sound in the shadows of night. Like a longboat braving treacherous waters, Hels Vite is powerful and brawny, an exemplar of Viking metal's stark majesty.

For starters, metalheads seeking more boisterous fare a la Turisas will quickly realize Vite navigates choppier seas. Clocking in at a hefty 51 minutes, it is also an arduous journey. Avoiding the borderline self-parody of other Viking metal bands, Thyrfing instead cuts a path through the competition with an effort sounding graceful yet violently confident.

Opening cut "En Sista Litania," for example, offers ample proof Vite is wrought in the spirit of hardship and challenge. A melancholy guitar chord runs like a cold water current through the ocean, the pounding riffs flowing again and again like waves. Leading a war chant, the band next launches into stomping metal, rife with blistering riffing and elegantly fingerpicked notes. By song's end, the whole concoction erupts into battle, emerging as a gripping piece of prime Viking metal.

"Frân Stormens Öga," meanwhile, further bear hugs the genre with muscular riffs stretched into a gloomy march of sound. Like a handcrafted battle axe, its simplistic violence works wonders. From soaring choruses sang by the entirety of the band to keyboard washes which chill the pounding metal, "Frân" is one mighty anthem.

Up next is "Isolation," a rousing number which immediately charges through passages of epic metal. Ghostly choirs spar with steely guitars and meticulously devastating percussion, producing an atmosphere of battle under wintry skies. The stark howls constituting the vocals are the icing on the cake, recreating the lonely independence of the warrior in combat.

After this, the album's title track begins with a swirling vortex not unlike a whirlpool. As it progresses, the music evolves into a patient, plodding waterfall of sound, replete with cascades of falling riffs and mournful wails. Bursting from the turbulent seas is a delicate series of guitar notes, soon eradicated in a firestorm of crushing metal. Ending with a moody swell of ambience, "Vite" captures the resoundingly fierce emotions of the album bearing its name.

"Griftefrid" continues along the path of brutality, laying waste with hammering riffs and wild shrieks. Cutting through the song's dense rhythmic crush is an ethereal chorus, drifting upwards like a pagan prayer. Compelling and beautiful, it creates a particularly smashing finale, leaving listeners breathless.

Thankfully, "Becoming the Eye" immediately presents a respite. Tribal drums snake their way through a churning bass line, producing an atmosphere more in line with Tool than Amon Amarth. When all Hell breaks loose, however, the song reveals complex tremolo-melodies sounding worthy of Enslaved. The end result is a labyrinthine rocker, full of twists and turns.

Last but not least is the cold splendor of "Tre Vintrar - Tvâ Solar." Frosty piano keys wind through gloomy bass notes, instantly creating an atmosphere of darkest winter. Interestingly enough, the song never leaves this mournful morass, ending the album on a sinister note not unlike unexpected death on the field of slaughter.

If there is one gripe I have hosted towards Viking metal, it is how the genre rarely conjures up the appropriate image of Viking culture. Always absent are the isolations of the nomadic lifestyle, the joy and sorrow of war and the evil of earlier ages, blatantly unkind towards all men. Dark, harsh and vast in scope, Hels Vite captures these emotions perfectly. Thyrfing remain champions of Viking metal, and Hels Vite will go down in history as one more crown jewel, albeit a little bit murkier than the rest.

by Mark Hensch in

Viking Metal, Sweden
Full-length, Regain
October 22nd, 2008

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