The Swedish Say "Naturbål," We Say "Going Commando"Review by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.
This June brings us the newest release from Swedish progressive Viking metallers Vintersorg. Originally a solo project for Andreas Hedlund (who some may know from Borknagar or Otyg) Vintersorg has existed for many years as a duo, with Hedlund joined by his Otyg bandmate Mattias Marklund. Naturbål is the 9th full-length release from the band.
Vintersorg's music has long occupied the lighter, more progressive end of the Viking metal spectrum, and this album continues that trend. The music is generally smooth and melodic, with plenty of synthesized folk instrumentation. As with most bands in this vein, the material has a black metal core, but in their case it's not very prominent.
The vocals play a major role in the relatively light feel of the music. Yet again Cia Hedmark from Otyg provides female guest vocals, but that's just on one track. The far more important factor is that the lead vocals are primarily clean, and they sit very high in the mix. That's not to say that they are mixed so high as to overpower the instrumentation, but while many black/pagan/folk/Viking metal bands slip the vocals into the middle of the mix where they blend in with the rest of the music, Vintersorg follow more of a traditional pop or rock pattern of putting the vocals out front as the main feature of the songs. It gives the music a different feel from most similar bands, which is actually a good thing in its own way.
As for that previously mentioned melodic instrumentation, it's good, though not particularly earth-shattering. The riffs are generally catchy and enjoyable, and while they tend to sound pretty familiar, they change up often enough to avoid feeling stale. The acoustic guitars and simulated folk instrumentation suit the music well and provide both pleasant interludes and flavor-enhancing accompaniment, though the band does lay them on a little too thick at times.
While generally a bit mellow, this album does have heavier sections scattered throughout its length, which actually leads to my one real complaint with this release: the heavier side of Vintersorg's music is more compelling than the lighter side but they refuse to use it often enough. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the record in general, but when the riffs get grittier and the harsh vocals kick in, the music really grabs my attention. Sadly, this just doesn't happen as frequently as it should.
Still, it's a solid album if you're a fan of Viking metal.
The Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars. (Or 4 on a good day. I still can't decide.)