Review Summary: Immense energy, above average lyrics, and the best blend of folk viking and black metal around.
Windir formed in the early 90s in Sogndal, Norway. The band was originally a solo project of Valfar, who hired session musicians for specific duties in studio like drums and lead guitar. It was with 1184 that the band Ulcus, whose bassist Valfar was neighbours with, joined Windir. 1184 marked the most well produced album by Windir to date, and proved that Valfar (who still wrote most of the songs with some help from Hvall) could consistently release amazing music. Unfortunately Windir would tragically end in January of 2004 with the death of Valfar at the young age of 25.
Regarding the death of Valfar, there are some lyrics on this album that perplex me. Take for instance the lyrics of Journey to the End -
A fate, a destiny,
an inevitable early death
Finally I'm dead,
And the vision is revealed for everyone else
The lyrics seem to have a retrospective quality, as if they were written after Valfar's death, even though this album was recorded in 2001. There are also numerous other examples that point to this -
Dying with sorrow not in hand,
Welcoming my gods, an equal I am,
A travel awaits before me,
Encircled as a God, dead as a man
While this lyrics obviously were unknowingly written by Valfar regarding his death three years later, it is almost scary how relevant they are to Windir as a band.
Now on to the music, the main focus for most people out there. Windir's music can be described as aggressive, folky, epic and very varied. The musical trademark of the lead guitar playing an arpeggio riff in the upper register is seen right away on Todeswalzer the opener. The fast tempo and basic tremelo rhythm guitar and double bass driven drums are also in true Windir style. This may all be very boring if it were done in a monotone and predictable fashion but there is much variation to be found. Clean vocals and harsh vocals are found on various songs, accordion is incorperated into the title track, a synth driven techno type section is found at the end of Journey to the End, and the chord progressions have some great unexpected direction. Windir is a band that you can have playing in the background for energy driven metal, but also a band that you can listen to for nuances that aren't obvious if you aren't paying attention like time signature and key signature changes.
Production is pretty much spot on. Guitars are edgy enough to sound heavy but not over distorted, drumming has good balance between snare, kick drum and cymbals. Bass is also suprisingly high in the mix for a metal band. It also plays considerably higher than most metal bands, playing on strings other than just the E String and contributing to the melodic and harmonic aspects of the music. Synths are mostly in the background barely heard and creating purely atmosphere. The exception to this is when there are synth only breaks during which the synths are naturally turned up higher in the mix. Vocals are also excellent, not overly loud or distorted but still harsh enough to drive the verses and choruses of the cd.
Musically the music is probably only moderately hard to play at best, but riffs like Todeswalzer's opening, Destroy's verse and Journey to the End prove that simple tremelo riffs can be far more than mediocre if set up correctly and arranged well. If you wish to hear a cd of immense emotional depth and energy then 1184 should be a cd that will become one of your all-time favorites. Many bands try to blend the folk influenced metal that Windir mastered but it is fair to say that none ever mastered it as well as Valfar. An excellent blend of black viking and folk metal, and a very original and refreshing album.
Terje "Valfar" Bakken
1978 - 2004