Title: Vanitas Vanitatvm
Label: Prophecy Productions
Release date: September 28, 2018
Format reviewed: mp3 (320kbps) promo
Vanity of vanities … currently our planetary state of affairs. Rampage of hate and greed, destroying nature, art, beauty … humanity. Lost kindness, oppressed compassion, futile desperation, brokered fate … when the world turns to night.
HELRUNAR, hailing from Münster (Latin: Monasterium), in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, formed in 2001. Initially a trio, the band released a full-length (debut) demo, a split and two full-length albums until 2008, when the band became a duo. Marcel Dreckmann (a.k.a. Skald Draugir – vocals) and Sebastian Körkemeier (a.k.a. Alsvartr – drums, guitars, acoustic guitars, bass) released two full-length albums and a split, as a duo, under the moniker HELRUNAR. Currently awaiting the release of their sixth album, “Vanitas Vanitatvm”, on Prophecy Productions, the band, with the addition of three other musicians, is gearing up for a short European tour. It is however hard to comprehend how a band capable of writing and releasing such epic music, remains a ”hobby”, while the two band members have to maintain day jobs. The music on HELRUNAR’s upcoming “Vanitas Vanitatvm” is dark. It is much more than the “pagan black metal” tag, suggests. While the guitars tone and playing style, and the blast beats suggest a heavy (early 90s) Norwegian black metal influence, and for good merit, the complex compositions also incorporate some outstanding doom metal, old school death metal, beautifully crafted acoustics and melodic soundscapes, including deeply melancholic string section extended passages. All done with the expected German precision. The listener should not expect some dime-a-dozen lo-fi production. The over an hour long “Vanitas Vanitatvm” is just the opposite: a crystal clear recording, well executed rhythm changes, spot-on dynamics – all tied up by a production revealing of intricate details and relevant accents. My 1st high praise goes to Sebastian’s guitar work on this album: he’s is able to convey everything from ethereal acoustic melodies, huge, chunky riffs to fluid, hyper tremolo picking, and speedy licks, all of it – track after track. The 2nd, and equally important high praise goes to Marcel for his vocal efforts: the vocal technique is in constant variation – from pure death growls, to grim screams and deep tonal, abrasive at time, narration, all intoned in the duo’s native language, German, adding gravity to the already dense music on the album. Although my German language skills are very limited, the extremely legible vocal delivery makes the album very easy to follow, even for non-German speakers. As far as the lyrics go, HELRUNAR keep up with their tradition: pagan themes (“Blutmond”/Blood Moon, “Necropolis”), Nordic (“In Eis und Nacht”/In Frost And Night), mythology (“Saturnus“, “Lotophagoi”/Greek: Λωτοφάγοι/Lotus-eater), humanity (“Als die Welt zur Nacht sich wandt”/ When The World Turned Nightward, “Da brachen aus böse Blattern, am Menschen und am Vieh“/Vile Boils Broke Out On Man And Beast), and dark human emotions via “Nachzehrer“, a pure doom metal piece with a stoic narrative. Out of the eleven tracks on this album, three are instrumental. The album’s opener, “Es ist ein sterbend Liecht” (It’s A Dying Sun), and closer, “Der Tag an dem das Meer seine Toten freigibt” (The Day The Sea Releases Its Dead), are both, full-on, string section performances. The third, and title track, “Vanitas Vanitatvm”, is composed of layers of baroque acoustic guitar harmonies, concluding into an abstract electric guitar soundscape. A dark, ravishing journey … Yet, as the cover art properly suggests, in it’s beautiful simplicity – there is an end to everything …
“Vanitas Vanitatvm” will be released worldwide on September 28th 2018, in various digital and physical formats, including limited edition CD and LP sets. Also, Prophecy Productions will release on the same day, a massive, nine LP boxset “Vier Wege Eines Winters”, covering all five full-length albums that HELRUNAR previously released. Highly recommended. 9/10 Emil/UHF
Please don’t forget to read our interview with Marcel of Helrunar here