REVIEW: Vreid – Wild North West

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Sognametal is a particular breed of atmospheric, folk-infused metal that combines Scandinavian folklore and mythology with somewhat old-schoolish black metal aesthetics. The term was coined by the Norwegian metal outfit, WINDIR, and after the band’s unfortunate passing in 2004, one of the bands that has triumphantly been carrying the torch is the Norwegian black’n’roll outfit, VREID. The band has hammered out its success, particularly, by being a heavy-duty touring act. With the whole live music scene having been in a state of shock for some time now, VREID has not been resting on its laurels. Last year, the band launched their own brand of beer and on April 30th, 2021, the band will be releasing a concept album, developed alongside an entire movie. The new studio outing, “Wild North West,” due out via Season of Mist, features eight new songs that depict a journey to the mountains, to a dark place where the thin line between reality and fantasy dissolves – and where the carnal embrace of death is just one step behind you. The music is layered with a distinct vintage aura, both riffs-wise and melodically – and not merely in terms of the pioneering Norwegian black-metal outfits but bands such as the early-1980s IRON MAIDEN and the British proto-heavy metal oddballs, ATOMIC ROOSTER, even. As for the movie, having listened through the album a few times now, my guess would be something between the 1977 Wes Craven classic, The Hills Have Eyes, and the genuinely creepy 1981 Sam Raimi classic, The Evil Dead – judging by the music, that is. [Ed. note: If you are curious about the movie, Tuonela Magazine is VREID‘s official Finnish partner during the premier. We are streaming the movie on our Facebook page on April 29th, 2021. Keep an eye on our Facebook page!]

The journey begins with the album’s title track, “Wild North West.” laying down the law pretty much right away. There is no setting up the mood with a prolonged tease-track, acoustic doodling, or whatever. After the short, ominous organ-intro, the song punches you straight in the face – no questions asked – as though suggesting that this journey is not perhaps initiated by the wanderlust to be leapfrogging around, whistling happy tunes, but by some dark, eternal shadows emerging from the wormwood forests of the forever dead. In dreams, it is thought that mountains signify danger or maybe some kind of an inner elevation. Here, the haunted mountain in the wild north west signifies something utterly darker.

VREID‘s previous studio album, “Lifehunger,” released in 2018, already established the band as one of the premier contemporary black metal acts hailing from Norway. Moreover, it showed that the band’s music is way too immersive to be labeled merely as black metal. The music is dark, yes, and the rapid-fire guitar riffs have that distinct razor-sharp edge associated with black metal. Progressive old-school guitar-jabs are thrown in for good measure though, as well on the previous effort as on the new album. Norwegian “black metal” bands seem to have a way of twisting the paradigm in their favor in ways inexplicable. ENSLAVED, for instance, released a hauntingly beautiful, prog-infested black-metal album last year. VREID‘s new journey into the wild north west further proves there is something very interesting happening in the scene.

I grew up listening to the heavy-metal and hard-rock bands of the 1980s. So, feeling the subtle presence of my childhood heroes all along this musical journey, it goes without saying that I am pleased like a dog with two tails. From the Alice Cooper-vibes in “Dazed and Confused” to the occasional NWOBHM vibes here and there, VREID pays homage to the tradition without sounding like a jukebox. The track ”Shadows of Aurora” even takes a nod toward VENOM with maybe a little less punk attitude. After spinning “The Morning Red,” I simply had to put on the epic track, “Remember Tomorrow,” on the eponymous 1980 debut of IRON MAIDEN, just to imagine what the song would sound like with the occasional black-metal vocals. I’m pretty sure a cover rendition by VREID would work wonders. After all, it’s not that far in terms of style; The closing track on “Wild North West” is a 10-minute black-metal epic titled “Shadowland,” a song that pulls the listener into its gravitational field like a fine metal epic only should.

The geography of Norway is dominated by vast mountain ranges. Maybe it explains why they seem to have a very special relationship with their mountains and fjords. One of the best orchestral pieces, in my humble opinion, is the iconic composition, “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” by the Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg. So I guess it is only fair to say that mixing the Norse “Dovregubbens” of the mountains and increasingly loud and frenetic music is one hell of a winning combination – every time.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. Wild North West
       
  2. Wolves at Sea
       
  3. The Morning Red
       
  4. Shadows of Aurora
       
  5. Spikes of God
       
  6. Dazed and Reduced
       
  7. Into the Mountains
       
  8. Shadowland

Lineup

Jarle Hváll Kvåle – bass, keys, additional vocals and guitars

Sture Dingsøyr – vocals, guitars

Jørn Holen – drums

Stian Bakketeig – guitars

Label

Season of Mist

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