posted on 9/2012 By:
Vintersorg went Avatar: The Last Airbender with his latest creative pursuit, a four-album concept with each record taking on a classical element (Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water). Nipping at the heels of Jordpuls (‘Pulse of the Earth’), Orkan tackles the wind element, with excellent results. Unlike Jordpuls, which suffered a bit from dragging lulls and distracted energy, this latest hurricane is less of an unhinged wrecking ball and more aptly embodies the focused eye of a storm. Although it tackles the lightest element, the album is anything but. Andreas “Vintersorg” Hedlund and Mattias Marklund take airy atmosphere and add depth and weight with pulverizing and buzzing riffs, signature cleans and growls, and inventive instrumentation (including flutes, strings, and a variety of keyboards). My only qualm is that the drums are low in the mix and keep the tracks from delivering crushing blows when the dynamics reach their fever pitch.
While the duo is often pegged as being folk metal, there are far more influences at work here. Black metal riffage is prominent, and the implementation of symphonic elements often reminds more of early Dimmu Borgir and less of Vintersorg’s other folk-infused project, Borknagar. His vocals are still very much in the same vein, but the compositions are heavier, darker, and more intricate. Opening with “Istid”, the album gets off to a lively and sonically busy start before segueing into a gritty breakdown. There is plenty of ebb and flow within each track, and no song commits wholly to one genre. Each of the eight pieces clocks in at over five minutes, and “Polarnatten” is the longest. Starting off with a sinister solo string passage, it explodes into a frenzy percussive keyboard, tremolo picking, and blast beats before calming to a more groove-oriented pace. There’s no shortage of hooks on this record (and some juicy guitar solos, especially on “Myren”), but between them lie many passages that are thick with instrumental layering, perhaps to a fault. The title track has so much going on that it almost seems as though more than one song is playing at once, and harmony and order seem like accidental rarities. For fans of the frenetic, this may not be a problem, but for connoissuers of Vintersorg's simpler work, a few of these songs will send them reeling.
There are some places where folk instrumentation is a hindrance, and “Havets Nåd” features screechy violins that detract from the catchiness and effectiveness of the riffs. This is also a point where the long structures seem to drain vitality from the listening experience and leave the audience waiting for the end of the whirlwind. This is an experimental folk record that fans of Vintersorg’s previous work will undoubtedly enjoy, but there will surely be those who lack the patience to weather this particular storm.
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