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Vreid - I Krig Review

by Mark Hensch

I Krig is Norwegian for "At War." On this, Vreid's third full-length album, the Norwegian quartet sounds like it. For the first time since their formation in 2004, I've gotten the feeling that this is a band who is ready to take the metal underground by storm. Before I wax further poetic, let us backtrack a little bit historically.

It is important to remember that Vreid was once a band named Windir. Formed in 1994, Windir was an eclectic and epic blackened Viking folk metal outfit, a group of proud Scandinavians whom sought to brutally and powerfully spread their culture to others. Right in the beginning of 2004, frontman Valfar went to a remote family cabin one night and was caught in a snowstorm. He died of hypothermia and Windir disbanded out of respect. Shortly thereafter, Vreid was formed out of the ashes.

As a long-time fan of Vreid, I can safely say that previous albums Kraft and Pitch Black Brigade were pretty well-rounded but lacking full catharsis. What I mean by this is that Vreid as a band were formed in some unique circumstances, the likes of which might have prevented full involvement on all fronts of the band. I Krig thankfully annihilates this premise and Vreid sound like they've channeled all their grief, loss, anger, and strength into one power-keg CD.

If 2004's Kraft was a animalistic "F*ck Off" to the dissolution of Windir, and 2006's Pitch Black Brigade an ambitious romper-stomper through dystopian hellscapes worthy of 1984, then I Krig is the spirit of vengeful warfare through unrelenting courage. Every second of Krig is furious, dynamic, and full of vigorous life; to hear it is to be on the front of some glorious battle, charging the trenches with full-speed ahead.

The reason for this spirited energy is clearly a band more comfortable with itself. On this album Vreid sound confident, lively, and mad. Gone are the intriguing English lyrics of old; all of I Krig is full of militant Norwegian. As for the music, the band has stripped away some of its more ambient tendencies and focused more on its assault of thrashing, futuristic BM with a bit of folk. The end result is superb; I Krig sounds like Enslaved piloting the world's fasted tank right into your living room.

The first mortar fired comes in the wonderfully violent "Jarnbyrd." Nothing short of epic, "Jarnbyrd" at first drifts in on ominous clean chords of dark night and darker rage; from there, it slowly builds into an explosive beatdown of pummeling thrash blacker than midnight in Greenland. As if all that weren't enough, Vreid lay down the pain with powerful, wind-milling riffs and mosh-worthy sections of up-tempo cowbell. Grand, stoic guitar melodies twist in-and-out of the revelry, and as far as intros go, this is one hell of a start for an album.

"Under Isen" is a rip-roaring jaunt that keeps up the intensity. The unhinged guitars bust out breakneck folk melodies, the likes of which coalesce into icy choruses. As if to prove that they're not done rearranging faces yet, the song blatantly shoves you into a circle pit of tumultuous punching before the final, soaring climax.

"I Krig" showcases immense versatility largely by kicking off with a mournful violin sonata. Ambient passages of moody guitar snake through walls of rhythmic, hypnotic percussion, all expertly played. From here, Vreid molest listeners with blasting, ferocious blastbeats and flaying guitars backing inhuman howls. The violin makes a brief, momentous, and spirited comeback, only to be mauled by one last rendition of the melodies. Dynamic and fluid, "I Krig" is definitely worth naming an album after.

"Vaepna Lengsel" goes right for the jugular with a roaring, full-throttle barnstormer. The guitars are pulverizing and straightforward, featuring the kind of no-nonsense brutality that made Norway's black metal the envy of the world in the first place. To boot, the band throws out some mesmerizing Enslaved techniques on this one, making their blinding shoot-outs of sound that much more interesting.

"Svart" is a bit quieter, its softly anxious melodies meshing well with the organic riffs. At times reflective, at others confrontational, "Svart" is easily heavy metal dynamics 101. Even better, Vreid injects some heavenly folk choruses into the mix, making things feel aged and beautiful beyond anything else.

"Folkefiendar" is perhaps my favorite song of the disc, and with good reason. Harsh and abrasive Norwegian howling leads into modern black metal bloodletting of highest proportions. Elements of black metal's perversion, thrash metal energy, and hard rock's straightforward coherence make this one a monster of a jam, and though "Folkefiendar" may change quite a bit musically, thematically this is all about kicking ass and taking names.

"Dei Daude Steig Av Grav" might have an unwieldy title, but its winding passages of tremolo-melodies are akin to the world's most complicated maze. Slowly but surely, "Grav" walks listeners to a dizzying precipice of thundering heights only to knock them off. The fall is disorienting and grand, leading into a well of deep folklore and ancient customs.

"Fangegard" is another personal favorite, its urgent mix of speedy clean chords and ominous drumming soon morphing into a blitzkrieg of take-no-prisoners, militant blackened thrash. "Millom Hav Og Fjell" closes things with a riotous and fun time. Though slow-paced and heavy, folksy drinking anthems are injected into the mix, giving it a strong but joyous tone. Much like that delicious foam at the end of a good beer, "Fjell" is the perfect cap to an album full of solid good times. As the album ends on a swell of cresting piano keys, one can't help but think that I Krig is that rare kind of CD that balances aggression with good taste.

Majestic, powerful, and emotionally cleansing, I Krig is a stellar album from a band finally emerging into one cohesive whole. Everyone should find something pleasing on this one; be it mosh-pit inciting thrash pieces, blasphemous black metal melodies, or elegant experimental ambience, I Krig is the fist-pumping Scandinavian warfare anthem that fans of the band have long been waiting for. Windir may be done, but I Krig showcases a band full of promise and ready for more.

Vreid's I Krig
1. Jarnbyrd
2. Under Isen
3. I Krig
4. Vaepna Lengsel
5. Svart
6. Folkefiendar
7. Dei Daude Steig Av Grav
8. Fangegard
9. Millom Hav Og Fjell

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Vreid - I Krig


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