Everyone who knows anything about Scandinavian metal knows how badass Vikings are. Pillage, smash, burn, rape, kill, drink, pillage, smash, etc. It’s all well and good, everyone loves a good mass slaughter every once in a while, but don’t you think the lads who play Viking metal are just a tad… well… pretentious? Sure, bands like Bathory are so elite in the scene that back in, say, 1991, if anyone at a metal show in Stockholm or Oslo so much as muttered that the vocals in Hammerheart
were “Just a tad off-key” they would find themselves in the middle of the most savage beating of their life. So, why now are we flooded with hundreds of bands who play boring riffs and yell a lot about setting villages on fire, while the classic bands who play the subgenre of Viking metal are shoved somewhere in the background? More importantly, where are the bands who are still playing today to step the genre up back to where it should be?
Enter British Viking metal band Forefather, who still remain as one of the few Viking metal bands who have been around long enough to have a taste of what the music was about while it was still relatively unknown. They formed in 1997, and have subsequently released 5 full length LP’s, each one getting stronger than the last. Their latest offering, Steadfast
takes the general formula of Viking metal, namely harsh vocals and epic clean chants, melodic guitar riffing, and a really sweet cover depicting warriors ready to lop some heads off, and polishes it to the point where the music is simply glowing. Each song is packed with a variety of catchy and memorable riffs, using all the tricks in the trade to emphasize the creativity and general musicianship of the guitar playing. Sweeping leads, harmonized riffs, solos, bridges, anything you can think of is used in this album and used damn well.
Rolling double bass, blast beats that sound like they were from a black metal album, creative fills, all used beautifully to give the main attraction (the guitars) a tasteful backdrop to perform their melodic wankery. The vocals are often very harsh, sounding like a strange mix between Johan Hegg in terms of their depth and Quorthon in terms of their raspy qualities. Pinch harmonics are thrown around to highlight riff transitions, and multiple guitar solos are often used throughout the album, alongside numerous slower, melodic bridges (the ripping double bass backing a somber riff at about 4 minutes into “Hallowed Halls” immediately comes to mind). The entire album just has a coherence and a flow to it which is completely new to me in this genre, especially in the scene nowadays where Amon Amarth pretty much rules all. Each song is a compliment to the others before and after it, each heavy song a contrast to the soft one which just ended.
The entire album is just an overall win for this band, and I really hope that people get off their asses and give Forefather the recognition that they deserve as a powerhouse in the Viking metal scene today. I cannot name a fault in the album, I cannot point out a boring filler track, because they simply do not exist. Everything from the superb drumming to the epic and appropriate clean vocals to the surprisingly clean production screams quality, yet it took me a long time to actually hear about this band. I’ll tell you this right now to you Amon Amarth fans out there: these guys do it better. I’ll also tell you melodic death metal fans out there: this is a must listen. Quality in every single sense of the word.