posted on 2/2011 By:
Superfluous. There isn't a better word in the English language to describe Helrunar's latest full-length, Sól. In fact, this album goes well beyond anything that even the most patient fan of metal would catagorize as being full in length. This is an overabundance of black metal. If Wal-Mart had a black metal end cap in their music section, this baby would be featured in a classic buy-four-get-one-free special. It's not the 90+ minute length of the album that makes it so perturbing, but rather the fact that seven of the fifteen songs are eight or more minutes when they absolutely do not need to be. Now that all of the important mathematical equations are out of the way, you may proceed to the next paragraph sans a nifty transition sentence.
Although abnormally and unnecessarily long, Sól is definitely more exciting than your standard, run-of-the-mill black metal album. Initially, it is the unique blend of super raw instrumentation and abnormally clean production values that makes the album so sneakily intriguing. To some, the production may actually sound flawless, especially during the shorter interludes. However, it is this particular journalist's opinion that all black metal could use a little bit of gruffness from time to time. This would have given Helrunar a bit of leeway in terms of the lack of "umph" in Skald Draugir's wailing vocals. It could have also added a bit of spontaneity to some of the guitar tones that helped make some of last year's releases (Sorgeldom's Inner Receivings and Jumalhämärä's Resignaatio to name a few) so spectacular. Although the constant ringings of eerie guitar notes are far from being compositional platitudes, their monotony will slowly but surely begin to vex the listener. Interestingly enough, it's the 3-minute-long tracks such as "Praeludium Eclipsis" that show the side of the band many have grown to love. In fact, every track contains a few great riffs and practically flawless drumming; but Helrunar simply carries its song segments on for too long before making a successful transition. Occasionally, the delivery of the transition comes at the right place, but then it is ruined by some strange minimilist interlude-within-a-song, which becomes equally if not more frustrating. "Unter dem Gletscher," "Tiefer als der Tag," "Aschefolk," "Moorgänger," "Rattenkönig" and the title track "Sól," which is consequently the album's best track if you manage to reach it, all contain examples of Sól's aforementioned follies.
There should be no doubt that the hearts of everyone who helped record, master and produce this album were in the right places. The haphazardness of many of today's releases may be more painful to a creative German songwriter than anyone else. Even the progressive and experimental innovations of Richard Wagner were carefully worked and re-worked into his music until he found them to be perfect; but this time it was done to a fault. And speaking of German, don't be bothered if you can't understand the contrived ramblings that attempt to carry the listener through the album -- it's probably more intriguing if the listener doesn't understand the language in this case. Perhaps if Sól were stripped down to about half its length, the album would be enjoyable. Either way, if you're still not convinced that Helrunar has only offered up large amounts of fluff this time around, you can't say that your purchase came without a disclaimer. Perhaps fluff is too extreme a word in this instance...instead, let's go with scrap metal.
*It is entirely possible to read this review 9,782+ times before playing the album from start to finish, but what would possess you to do either?
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