Titled: Road North
Label: Purity Through Fire
Release 31 May 2019 (physical media), 7 June 2019 (digital)
Format reviewed: Digital Promo
Swedish melodic black metal band VANANIDR may be a relatively new project that have been around for a year, but don’t let initial appearances deceive you. The band’s mastermind (Anders Eriksson) cut his teeth in previous bands, notably HYDRA which made a string of demos in the early 2000s culminating in the release of the ‘Phaedra’ album in 2003; with SYNODUS HORRENDA as a “pre Vananidr” project that paved the way for the genesis of the band we see today.
VANANIDR’s debut was released in November 2018, and met with much praise from the underground metal scenes worldwide. Evidently, it seems that multi-instrumentalist Eriksson – a man not wishing to rest on his laurels – has decided to release the ‘Road North’ album on the 31st May via CD, in two formats; a highly collectible A5 sized digipack CD, and a more conventional CD case format via Purity Through Fire records. Interestingly, the digital only release is scheduled for a release a week after the CD pressings, which will probably frustrate those who deem physical media to be unnecessary clutter. At the current time of publishing, there’s no known vinyl release and is assumed there won’t be one. Sorry, record spinning fans.
As established with their self titled debut, VANANIDR take their musical cues from a mixing pot containing IMMORTAL, BURZUM and KAMPFAR, but interestingly there’s moments in the album that remind you of early DIMMU BORGIR circa “For All Tid”– the era before all that “Film Score Black Metal” lark kicked off? Containing a full orchestra, kitchen sink, and Roland Keyboards? With a box of 3 ½ inch floppy discs full of MIDI samples? One of which, you could be forgiven for thinking was based on the ‘door ajar’ jingle from a 1987 Nissan Bluebird? That “tinkly tinkly” keyboard riff? Yes, dear readers – THAT period of DIMMU BORGIR. Those heady days when you went to the local metal nightclub in corpse paint, PVC trousers, and threw “kvlt shapes” to ‘Broderskapets Ring’ before you slowly morphed into wearing brown cargo shorts, Karimoor hiking trainers, and a Regatta outdoor jacked with a faded Enslaved shirt; where driving a Citroen Xsara Picasso with your wife to B&Q every weekend became your “black metal lifestyle”.
Tracks such as “Cold Dead Skin” are a perfect case in point; soaring and majestic that segues perfectly into “Melancholy March”, a slower and more contemplative song bouncing off each other for contrast. However, don’t be fooled into thinking this is black metal of a more ponderous style – for there’s blisteringly fast paced tracks such as “Bleak and Desolate” and “Drowned In Hell’s Fire” with a thunderous aural attack and powerful vocal delivery. The overall mix of the album is centred towards rhythm and lead guitars dextrously weaved into the overall soundscape, but not at the expense of everything else. The bass guitar playing is clearly discernible, adding a certain drive and majesty that upon first spin you don’t immediately notice but reveal themselves upon repeated listens on tracks like “Raining Fire”. Because, it’s all very well enveloping the listener in a wall of guitars but completely forgetting the finer nuances such as bass guitar, that are left as an afterthought or forgotten about entirely. Echoes of the late and lamented black metal band WINDIR make themselves known in the album too, showing up in the lead guitar solos of ‘Shadows of the Past’ and ‘Beneath The Glimmering Surface’ combined with folk overtones, that simply can’t be an inadvertent collaboration of styles which add further depth to the album as a whole.
It’s very apparent that Eriksson has a raft of experience from previous bands, that he’s finely refined over the years. As good as the self titled debut is, it becomes plain for all to hear that ‘Road North’ is something of a aural zenith of sorts; demonstrating an artist who has full creative reign to make exactly what he wanted for a black metal album. An album for himself, but an album to share and enjoy with fellow fans of the extreme metal art equally. 8/10 Goth Mark
8/10 – To Greatness and Glory!
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