2012-09-19

Henrik lectures in... Vintersorg

In this section I will do the exact same, but also the complete opposite as I do in the "Tries to understand"-section. Confusing? Not really. Here I will choose one of my favorite bands and pick one song off of each of their albums and lecture all you less fortunate beings who haven't yet understood the greatness of the band in question. Get it? Good.

The year was 2000 and I was visiting Gothenburg, Sweden with my class in school. I don't exactly remember what the hell we were doing there, but that is of less importance. What is important is that we visited a record store and I just happened to pick up an album out of the blue. I just liked the name of the band and the title, so I decided to invest some of the little cash that I had. That was one of the best decisions I've ever made and I haven't looked back since that day.

For you see, the artist was Vintersorg and the album was "Ödemarkens Son" and that started a lifelong worship of everything Andreas "Vintersorg" Hedlund has done. Sure, I haven't liked everything he's done as much as Vintersorg (with perhaps the exception of Otyg) but from Cronian to Waterclime, there's always been a certain quality-stamp that I can't deny. If you haven't heard this incredible band before, it is kind of hard to explain. In the beginning, Vintersorg was a metal band that mixed black- and heavy metal with folk-influences, hence why many people refer to this as viking metal or pagan metal. Later on, the band ventured into a more progressive metal field, without loosing it's identity. But enough talk about the past, let's revisit it right now!

Before I dive further into the classic debut album "Till Fjälls" from 1998 - be sure to check out the EP "Hedniskhjärtad", released in the same year. If you like the music on this album, you'll be sure to enjoy the EP as well.
Apart from the classic title-track, there's only one song here that is worthy of the title "classic", and that my friends, is "För Kung och Fosterland". Starting with an immediate punch and going from harsh black metal into one of those choruses that this guy is so incredibly talented at making is nothing but pure awesomeness. We're also served a really cool bridge in the form of "Hall of the Mountainking" by Edward Grieg.
On the downside, the music is left suffering due to the poor production and the somewhat dissatisfying drum-programming. If you can look past this - you have one hell of a song to enjoy.

The year after, Mr. V released the album that I talked about in the beginning. "Ödemarkens Son" is superior in production and instrumentation and on the same level of incredible songwriting as "Till Fjälls".
The incredible "Svältvinter" opens with beautiful acoustic guitars and keyboards before morphing into a mid-tempo metal song where Hedlund's vocals go lower and deeper than we've heard before. Cia Hedmark (from Otyg) joins him in the chorus and the dueling of these two voices is a true joy for the ears. Both the lyrics and the music gets darker after a while and the part where Hedlund starts to use his grim voice always makes the hair stand up on my arms.

During the year of the new millennium, the first major changes in the Vintersorg-camp took place. The one-man project became a duo when Mattias Marklund joined Hedlund on guitars. And many of the lyrics came in English instead of Swedish. On "Cosmic Genesis", the keyboards play a larger role.
And this is quite evident on the amazing "A Dialogue with the Stars" where the keyboard-frenzy reaches new peaks - though always in a wonderful symbiosis with the guitar-riffs which goes hand in hand with the even better vocal-melody. The verses are great on their own but what really gets me going is the absolutely insane chorus. "These myriads of stars, ah-oah-oh-ah-oah-oh". I need not say anything else.

On "Visions from the Spiral Generator", the duo brought in the bass-wizard Steve DiGiorgio (known from Death and Sadus amongst others) and the equally amazing drummer Asgeir Mickelson (ex-Borknagar) and the result is the most technical and progressive work from the band up to that date. Which was 2002 by the way.
(unfortunatley, this YouTube-version of the song suffers from some seriously annoying changes in volume at some points. Have faith - the album version is much better)
On "Visions...", Hedlund have used the English language for 6 of the songs and the remaining 3 are in Swedish. I choose the Swedish "Universums Dunkla Alfabet" since it is a fast-paced song with less progressiveness than some of the other songs on the album. This is more a "rocker" - if I am allowed to use that word - than most of the other songs here. It does contain a few time-changes here and there and becomes a bit more "weird" towards the end, but the almost evil-sounding verses and the wonderful chorus - which is made for singalong - is what I truly love about this song.

2004 was the year when the band released "The Focusing Blur" - which today still remains the only V-album where all the lyrics are written in English. For me personally, this is among the weakest albums the band has ever done, but it is still a very good album nevertheless. If you are into weird changes in music and heaps o' progressiveness, then this album might be for you. Steve and Asgeir are still hired hands on this album and the band has also added Lars Nedland (Borknagar and Solefald) for some spoken monologues and hammond on this very track.
The band immediately begins with some weird keyboard-noises and Lars' really cool voice. Then we get to hear heavy metal in combination with some odd changes and vocal-melodies which at first doesn't seem to fit the music at all. But I've come to conclusion that "The Focusing Blur" is one of those albums which you really have to listen to a lot of times to quite get the whole picture. Also, the album should really be listened to from start to finish and not cut-out like I just did here. Nevertheless, I really enjoy "Matrix Odyssey" for it's weirdness. And though there are weirder tracks evident on the album - see the Arcturus-influenced "Curtains" for evidence - this one just has the right amount of metal combined with weirdness for my taste.

Mr. Hedlund kept things quiet in the Vintersorg-camp for a few years and returned in 2007 with "Solens Rötter", which was a combination of the older, more-nature based albums and the two latest more progressive works. This is also not one of my favourite V-albums since it feels quite unfocused at some points and lacks some of the "grandeur" that most of the earlier albums had. Still, not a bad album of course.
This time, I went with a choice of a song that wouldn't seem too obvious. Sure, I could have gone with "Spirar och Gror" or "Att Bygga en Ruin" which are closer to my personal taste, but I felt that it was time for all you non- V-fans to hear one of their infamous ballads. There have been one on every album since "Cosmic Genesis" and while "Strålar" might not be as good as "The Enigmatic Spirit" (from "Cosmic Genesis") it has a flow and a feeling which is unmatched by most of them ballads. I really love the acoustic guitars and how the vocal-melodies intertwine so effectively during the 5+ minutes.

An ever longer break then came in the V-camp but by the time we wrote 2011 in our calendars, the return was mightier and better than ever before. "Jordpuls" is a solid nod towards old classics such as "Till Fjälls" and "Ödemarkens Son" - without sounding remotely like any of those. It is an album that can stand on it's own and perhaps the most fresh-sounding albums the band has ever done.
I mean, how can one not completely fall in love with those verses which keeps shifting effectively in tempo? And then that insane chorus, which, although we've heard the band do many times before, still manages to sound fresh and exciting. Towards the end, we also get that classic nice "break" in the music where things slows down and Hedlund soothes us with his beautiful voice. But these words really can't do justice to this mighty song. Seriously, I might consider "Världsalltets Fanfar" as one of the best songs the band has done on this side of the millennium and I always keep getting back to it.

I barely had a chance to catch my breath with "Jordpuls" until Vintersorg announced it's follow-up "Orkan" this very year (2012). In short words, it is a continuation of the previous release - just with new amazing songs done just the way I like it.
I am aware that this particular song has received some criticism and even ridicule for it's weird keyboards, that at first listen, doesn't seem to fit at all with the rest of the music. But I say, just let it sink in and you'll soon realize that "Myren" is a great song. The chorus is definitely one of those goose-bump inducing moments and the part where Hedlund holds his own little solitary monoluge, immediately brings one back to the ending of "Månskensmän" from "Ödemarkens Son". As I said, you really have to let this song sink in a few times before it becomes so ungodly great as it is.

Vintersorg 2012: Hedlund & Marklund
As the case is with my lecture in My Dying Bride, the songs here might not be my particular favourites from the band, but I think it gives a good representation of what the band is all about. If you are a Vintersorg-newbie and I've just made you interested in the band (if I have managed to do so with just one person, it's been worth the effort I put into this), then I recommend that you start with either picking up "Ödemarkens Son" or perhaps even better "Cosmic Genesis". Then you'll have to do the rest of the exploring for yourself, but here's my top-list of Vintersorg-albums anyway at the current time (September 2012 that is). They are all amazing in their own way, so it's been really difficult to place them in an order, but I did my best.

1. "Ödemarkens Son"
2. "Orkan"
3. "Cosmic Genesis"
4. "Jordpuls"
5. "Till Fjälls"
6. "Visions from the Spiral Generator"
7. "Solens Rötter"
8. "The Focusing Blur"

4 comments:

  1. Awesome post for an Awesome band!

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  2. Sweet read, mate!

    I'm not entirely in agreement with the album toplist, but as I tried figuring out how mine would look, so many albums were constantly trying to move ahead of each other, and with all due respect for you managing to bring one here, I must confess that I had to give up, ha ha!

    I would, however, move Visions and Solens to the bottom two, but as I then tried to decide on the new position of Focusing, it all went to hell for me...

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    Replies
    1. Haha, you see? It's almost impossible

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  3. Totally agree with the top 3. Awesome albums!

    ReplyDelete