Vintersorg, "Solens Rotter"
When considering the avant/prog metal illuminati, it seems to have become curious convention to disregard Mr. Andreas Hedlund. Better known as Vintersorg, he is one of the genre’s most distinctive and tenured members. After joining forces with Borknagar, he also became one the most well-known, though it may be argued that the merger caused him to lose his unique appeal. Regardless of his incarnation, Hedlund has continually defied conventional songwriting and lyrical themes, and with his eponymous solo project has released six LP’s over the last decade.
The most recent of these, ‘Solens Rötter’, finds Vintersorg reaching back to his roots (coincidentally, the album’s title translates to ‘Roots of the Sun’). The band’s logo and cover art have returned to their original, archaic styling, the track listing is once again all in Swedish, and the music features a more pronounced folk influence, both in composition and instrumentation, than some of his other recent work. This comes after the entirely English ‘The Focusing Blur’, which was made significantly more avant-garde by Steve DiGiorgio’s inimitable bass fluxes and Vintersorg’s rather wild indulgence in vocal experimentation. In short: a mad scientist’s existential anthem if there ever was one.
Yet, as fascinating as it is to see this scientist’s proverbial shock of white hair stand on end and crackle with mystical energy, something about his back catalogue has prevented him from achieving the widespread commendation that are clearly within his reach. Perhaps the music was simply imbalanced—Dr. Jeckyll versus Mr. Hyde, as it were—highly melodious passages and even the occasional pop chorus competing with an eccentric, wandering vocal style and bewildering arrangements.
But thankfully, after years of experimentation, Vintersorg’s wild recipe is beginning to settle down. ‘Solens Rötter’ is his first solo release since he and Borknagar really hit their stride with 2004’s ‘Epic’, and also comes after the dubious experiment Cronian (where he and and Øystein G. Brun explore their mellow sides). Dividing his efforts between the two may have been what helped Vintersorg finally take command of his creative abilities instead of simply test their limits.
For all that, the music of ‘Solens Rötter’ does not diverge dramatically from any recent Vintersorg releases, and fans only familiar Borknagar will also have a fairly clear idea of what to expect here. Throughout these fifty minutes we hear a wide range of instrumental and vocal textures (divers guitar tones, flutes, strings, keys, etc.), a smattering of Borknagar-esque piano so slightly atonal, and Vintersorg’s high clean vocals and enunciated growls tying it all together.
Some are saying that this is his most folk-inspired in recent memory and in some senses that is very true; it still is, though, undoubtedly progressive metal in both spirit and form. Folk does make its presence felt here, but not consistently. In fact, the only constant theme through every second of ‘Solens Rötter’ is that it is a progressive album. However, unlike past works, this feature is neither overwhelming nor flagrant in its presentation. As a result, ‘Solens Rötter’ glides along with surprising ease despite its progressiveness and its length.
Although Borknagar and Vintersorg are relatively similar projects, they differ in that the latter focuses on more straightforward melodies and prominent vocals—and indeed, on ‘Solens Rötter’ Hedlund handles both with equal ability. His habitual overreach of his vocal range is almost entirely absent and occasional songwriting tangents never stray too far from their original paths. And while ‘catchy’ is rarely a word ascribed to Vintersorg’s efforts (this album may be even less so than some of his others), ‘Solens Rötter’ is a highly memorable release and could be a personal turning point in his career. With this album, Vintersorg matches his maturity to his ambition and finds at last a creative voice comparable to the musica universalis of which he sings.
Doept I en Joekelsjoe