It's not often you find a masterpiece within the genre of Black Metal these days. Sure, during the early to mid 90's this rising underground satanic phenomena sported several classic albums, such as Darkthrone's Transilvanian Hunger
, Mayhem's De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas
, Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse
, among other greats. Since that time though, the golden age of true, "kvlt", Black Metal, the scene has been stuck in somewhat of a rut. With releases ranging from awful to above average, it is very rare you find an album these days that is worthy of the "masterpiece" status. Luckily, hidden gems like Helrunar exist throughout the world though, acting as a beacon of hope to those who may of lost hope. Little known and highly underrated, the German outfit's sophomore release Baldr Ok Iss
combines the best qualities of high quality black metal, while incorporating their own unique twists and turns to create a truly breathtaking Black Metal album.
The album starts off with spoken word piece, Dickichtgott
, which begins with a slow finger picked acoustic guitar lick, layered over the sound of fierce icy mountain winds and thin, overdriven powerchords. This leads right into Loka Logsaga
a frenzied slice of true Black Metal. Opening with a fast, dissonant, tremolo guitar riff, the song takes off, with hyper speed blast beats and a sickeningly fast tempo. Suddenly the song takes a turn, and the once chaotic riff becomes a supremely melodic riff that really catches the attention. When the vocals come in, its immediately noticeable that Skald Draugir's harsh drawl is one of the most fierce you will in this genre of music. The song employs tempo changes, key changes, basically everything essential to make an interesting and inspiring piece of music. Skald even demonstrates his versatility as a singer, by going from his harsh demonic rasps, from his soaring clean vocals to his menacing spoken word parts.
a true standout of the album, taking a much more technical stance Black Metal than usually seen. Its starts with a slow, Doom Metal trudging section that leads into a fast, tremolo picked riff, that cleverly utilizes some well time hammer-ons and pull-offs. The verse is wholly tremolo picked riff, with mile-a-minute drums and gives off the atmosphere of mystical land far away, where the cold never ceases. Once again, the song takes the technical route, and the riff becomes very Death Metal influenced, adding some great contrast to the bleak black metal atmosphere previously employed.Baldr
begins with a classic Spanish influenced acoustic riff, then, after adding an ample amount of distortion, plays the same riff in a tremolo picked Black Metal style, creating a unique and interesting hybrid lick. The same riff continues, and then is harmonized, maximizing its potential and becoming an even more grand guitar piece. Once again you hear the acoustic version in a short interlude, but instead of staying on the melodic course, it transforms into a classic Darkthrone styled tremolo picked guitar riff, complete with blast beats and clean vocals. Slowly the song regresses back into it's more melodic state and finishes with the epic riff it opened with.
is definitely one of the more brutal tracks on the CD, harking back into the most primitive form of Black Metal, practiced during the early 90's. The guitars are razor sharp and contain the droning elements present in classic Burzum and Darkthrone albums. The drumming in this song (courtesy of Alsvartr ) is quite incredible, as it never lets up its crashing tempo, and more importantly always stays interesting, no doubt in part because of the creative and interesting fills created throughout. When you hear the song Winter
, the first thing that will come to mind is Ulver and Kveldssanger
. Creating using only acoustic guitars, the song is completely folk influenced and is a great break from the unrelenting chaos that the album has so far created. Guitarist, Dionsyos is truly great, as he never ceases to surprise with what anomalies he brings to the table, incorporating various playing styles into his own style.
actually begins with a mid-tempo thrash/hardcore punk/crossover riff which is quite interesting just due to the fact that the band hasn't even show the slightest glimpse of those influences before. After slow the riff down to a snails pace however, the band does what it does best and launches into a full blown Black Metal attack. This song seems especially influenced by Darkthrone, not by the tempo, vocals or even drumming per say, but the note choices of the guitar, which sound like it could of been Nocturno Culto himself. There's even a brief acoustic interlude that sounded Darkthrone influenced (if they did acoustics that is). Hunta and Boga
is the only song on the album that threatens to bring the song down from classic status. While it's certainly not horrible by any standards, its slightly repetitive (in the boring way) and the guitars and drums are not up to par with the rest of the album.
Thankfully the album picks up again with the melodic Til Jaroar
. The begin melodies are so unique and so happy, they WILL
be stuck in your head for days. As the song progress's the band incorporates some great outside influences, taking cues from bands like Iron Maiden with their clean passages and even bringing in some Hard Rock influence. This is something that makes the band so unique and so great. They don't just limit themselves to extreme metal, they bring a plethora of idea's ranging from genre to genre. The album closer, Baldrs Drumar
is a simple tune, that is just the sound of a strong passing wind, and the voice of a distant Skald, singing into the storm.
Don't let the fact you don't know who the hell Helrunar is stop you from getting this album. Don't let any fears this being another bland, boring Black Metal band stop you from getting this album either. This is an album that appeals to all in the Black Metal audience, having elements from every aspect of the genre. Helrunar is a band to be reckoned with, underrated, but extremely talented. If there is one mistake in your life, that you will forever regret it will no doubt, be ignoring this album. So, by this reviewers suggestion, do yourself a favor and treat yourself to one of the best Black Metal albums ever recorded.