Av Norrøn Ætt
1997, Stremra Records
Helheim, "Av Norrøn Ætt"
I like this album and I'm not really sure why. Helheim are squarely in the "Viking metal" mould with this their second full length release. If you like Enslaved's, Eld, this will be your thing.
The first track is really an extended intro with piano, guttural vocals and violin. As an intro it is definitely different but I'm not sure it really melds in with the rest of the album. When the guitars eventually do kick in they sound full and throaty. There is a lot of pace here, interspersed with slower parts where the guitars are set way back in the mix. All the songs have tempo changes throughout and these are generally well executed. The vocals are raw and sit well with the overall sound. I like the way some of the studio sounds have been left on, such as the drummer clicking the sticks accidentally or the bassist getting his fingers in position for the big chord.
I really, really like the female vocals on this album. Sort of similar to that found in Behemoth's, Gorm, but they are much better executed. The end of the third song has a mix of high female soprano and low male monastic chant that is really effective. This appears again on De Eteriske Andevesenes Skumringsdans" and Av Norron AEtt where the riffs are slower and more militaristic.
Mork, Evig Vinter has the first introduction of the "Jew's harp" into extreme metal. This is probably to try and give the impression of water drops in some mystic glen. OK, I'll give them a point for trying something different and 10 points for keeping it short. Thankfully, the rest of the song chugs along in the characteristic, well executed, way. The harp makes other appearances later and it is either something you hate or accept.
The packaging is very good with the lyrics provided both in Norwegian and English but the cover showing the band having a good old Viking banquet is probably a bit tacky for most of today's market.
If you're a fan of the big epic Viking metal thing you should definitely check this out.
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