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Helheim - landawarijaR (2017) - Review

Band: Helheim
Album title: landawarijaR
Release date: 20 January 2017
Label: Dark Essence Records

01. Ymr
02. Baklengs mot intet
03. Rista blodørn
04. landawarijaR
05. Ouroboros
06. Synir af heidindomr
07. Enda-dagr

Opening the gateway to a rich cultural tapestry into the realm of Vikings, I present you landawarijaR from Helheim. The album released on 20th January 2017 by Dark Essence Records, is the ninth one by the band and the one who best represents their roots and precious Norse heritage. Helheim brings us the incredible progression of their musical style in this magnificent work. Helheim are one of the founding pioneers of the so called Viking metal genre.
Some historic information for the metal newbies: Helheim was founded back in 1992 in Bergen, Norway, by V’gandr (frontman and bass player) and H’grimnir (guitar and vocals), who were soon joined by the drummer Hrymr. The band began performing in local Bergen festivals, and in 1993, released their self-titled debut demo, distributed only within Norway. Their complete discography includes 12 works. Among them the acclaimed Åsgards Fall in 2010, Heiðindómr ok mótgangr in 2011 and raunijaR in 2015.

In this brand new work, landawarijaR, the music is by H’grimnir and V’gandr, the lyrics by V’gandr and the artwork by H’grimnir. landawarijaR was recorded at the Conclave and Earshot Studios in Bergen, and produced by Bjornar E. Nilsen (Vulture Industries, Black Hole Generator). The album was mastered by Herbrand Larsen (Enslaved). Many artists performed as guest vocalists on the album including William Hut, Morten Egeland (Narrowhead), Pehr Skjoldhammer (Alfahanne), Bjornar E. Nilsen (Vulture Industries) and Ottorpedo.

When you think of Vikings, you'll soon have colored images of carved boats, helmets with horns, battles, Thor, Odin and so on. This is nothing compared to the whole picture. Vikings were fierce warriors, but the bad reputation is not entirely fair. They were also skilled merchants, great administrators, skilled craftsmen of metal and wood, producing beautiful jewels and artifacts that survives nowadays. Vikings were also some of Europe's best storytellers and poets. The Norse religion was a variation of the religion practiced in the lands inhabited by the Germanic tribes across most of Northern and Central Europe. And all this cultural and mythological richness is magnificently represented by its four royal descendants, Helheim. They go beyond the most familiar bands branded as Viking metal. They keep alive the devotion to Norse heritage, so shrouded in mysteries from the Runes that are worth exploring. I think is mandatory from me advising you that whatever preconception you may have of “Viking metal” you should set them aside. Helheim bring their best in this album. All previous shortcomings are just vanishing in this beauty. landawarijaR it's like flying between peaks and valleys, feeling vengeance and beauty, hate and love in a fluid dynamics that makes it feel like one fifty-five minutes long song. Helheim during their entire career are making, let's say, a similar evolution like Enslaved, adding progressive elements to their music, yet in a unique way. On landawarijaR those ingredients sound really avant-garde.

The first track “Ymr” is a mesmerizing mysterious mid paced, marked by compelling thrum of a bass line with a mix of clean yet harsh vocals. As the music slows we can feel the discordance and pain with the beautiful guitar notes. The second track, “Baklengs mot intet” (in English: Backwards towards nothing),... guitars, guitars, when in the right hands, are able to make you float to worlds of unique beauty and despair. What a wonderful trip! This track has a unique refined grandeur. One voice plays over another leading you to a heart rush. This was one of the most addictive vocal arrangements I heard in the last time. The track also have the first of many dazzling guitar solos on the album. Also, about this two firsts tracks, there are two videos. You can have a good picture from what it holds inside this masterpiece by taking a look. “Ymr” is about define yourself, it is about “walk the path”. “Baklengs mot Intet” describes the inner battle, the bottomless despair and endless futility experienced by those who walk the path. The third track, “Rista Blodørn” (in English: Creating the blood eagle) is a sweet melodic atmospheric track. A slow-paced mood with beautiful clean vocals. The harmony is just perfect! By the way the vocals in the whole album are simply perfect, but I confess that I had chills while listening to "Synir Af Heidindomr". I love that kind of aggressive vocal. The refinement showing the grace in shadows. Epic shreds of vocal chords, with tears through black metal riffs, until it turns to a clean duet chorus. Definitely, landawarijaR (in English: Protector of the lands), is in my opinion the best song on the album. You’ll be hooked already when the first chord starts. And I still need to mention that in these three tracks, "Ymr", "Synir af heidindomr" and "Ouroboros" have tons of amazing guitar leads. Well, the whole album is a masterpiece of progressive Viking metal. “Enda-Dagr” (in English: End of days), the last track is another gift to me, lover of the genre. I loved finding some elements in their sound reminding me to Celtic Frost and Enslaved.

A great journey through life and death experiences. Helheim acquired a sublime artistic level in the best sense. This album is full of mystery, change, and emotional power. Even if some say that the music is in the same line with their country mates Enslaved, landawarijaR is still unique, landawarijaR is truly Helheim. This album is remarkable, a must have to all lovers of metal, it doesn't matter which genre you fit in.

Review written by: Felin Frost
Rating: 9,5/10