posted on 10/2008 By:
I’m going on an angry reviewer tangent before I even start the review.
Hey, Napalm Records! Yeah, you guys with the solid artist lineup and above-average track record. Stop sending me CDs with spoken dialogue in the middle of the song. It completely fucks up the flow of the song (or for that matter, the whole album), and frankly it makes me not want to listen to the album any more.
That being said, despite the announcements chimed in my promotional copy of Heimgang (“you are listening to Kampfar, new album Heimgang”), I couldn’t really stop listening to this album. That’s saying a lot, since I’ve stopped reviewing CDs three songs in because I couldn’t take the song molestation courtesy of an overzealous promotions department any further. It says a lot for a band to keep me interested when the odds get clearly stacked against them from the get-go with a faux-pas like having inane mutterings in the middle of an infectious riff.
Let us shake the bullshit off our shoulders and start fresh. Kampfar is nothing if not consistent in releasing black metal with folk undertones, and Heimgang is no different. Truth be told, I kinda wanted Kampfar to fall short of expectations, just so I could have something to gnash my teeth into. Instead of appeasing my sonic masochistic tendencies, the Norwegian quartet managed to appease my metal sensibilities, and more than one occasion on this disc resulted in copious amounts of perhaps inappropriate headbanging. On a side note: streetside headbanging is not recommended for those in more conservative neighborhoods.
Heimgang’s first plus is its simplicity, which is why Kampfar have been so successful in maintaining their fanbase. I mentioned “folk undertones,” but in lacking that which has defined the consistently rising folk metal scene (keyboards, pan pipes, accordions, violins, and the like), Kampfar has a sound that hinges wholly on its ability to convey all those instruments without actually having them. “Mareham,” “Vettekult,” and probably the first song on the album that actually piqued my interest, “Skogens Dyp” all feature some combination of a bright melodic riff (usually arpeggios or chromatic scalar progressions) coupled with a rumbling lower minor chord riff. It’s not completely unlike the Amon Amarth formula, but with more of a focus on high treble and subtle, jazzier drumming.
Sticking it out to the end, Kampfar crushes with “Vandring,” which plays like a meandering, doddering old man sighing his last breath. I wasn’t sure how comfortable I was with Kampfar incorporating some light synth keyboard work, but it’s almost necessary to contrast the exacerbated feel of the rest of the record. “Vandring” is perhaps the most appropriate closer I can imagine for Heimgang, with its engaging delivery and unassuming calm.
Heimgang may not be as good as earlier Kampfar works, but compared to other bands of their ilk, Kampfar stands far ahead of the pack when it comes to quality blackened folk. Or folkened black. Whatever it is, it’s good.
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