Review Summary: A perfect winter record when slogging it through the woods, drinking merrily with your favorite companions or killing wild animals in an attempt to reclaim your heritage.
In an effort to return to the music reviewing fold that I once loved, I’ve chosen to write about an album that invokes many a feeling about pagan ceremonies, ancient battles, and getting drunk off of mead. This album, Vittra, the debut from a young Swedish outfit entitled Skogen, satisfies every primal urge in my Irish heathen mind and body. Skipping the demo stage and releasing a full length album in the same year that Skogen is quite an impressive feat, but one could expect sloppy musicianship and unstructured/uninspired songwriting to plague the debut of the band. That is not the case here as J. Svensson and M. Nilsson have meticulously crafted a debut to remember in Vittra.
Combining atmospheric, mid paced black metal with acoustic interludes ala October Falls and backing atmospheric keyboards similar to Agalloch, Skogen isn’t quite as original in scope as the bands they’ve borrowed from, but nonetheless provide a compelling listen for anyone who’s interested in neo-folk or well produced black metal. Vittra is a primarily riff driven album, consisting of droning Drudkh like chord progressions that reach a peak of epicness more often than not. Vocals are mostly performed in a harsh raspy manner but occasionally clean singing is present. As for the acoustic guitar sections, they are littered throughout one minute and a half instrumentals as well as some of the more expansive tracks. Like I previously said, this style of metal has been done before but Skogen introduce enough talent and heart in their respective instruments to make this an enjoyable listening session. Especially if you’re sitting by a roaring fire with a bottle or two of Norwegian Wood or spiced mead by your side.
Out of the seven tracks on this record, Skogen devote the same amount of attention and detail to each one as to make every one equal in strength and interesting. This means no filler so that’s a plus. But it also means there’s no real standout either. However, Vittra is an album best enjoyed when listening to the whole thing rather than just a song or two. The album follows a structured, mid tempo formula for the most part but atmospheric keyboards and funereal guitar melodies help break up the monotony when things start to gel together. Nature influenced sound effects and acoustic strumming also complement the backing instrumentation to help keep the album together. The music displayed here doesn’t appear to be very technical but nonetheless I’m still impressed by the duo’s workman like ability to put together a solid debut. Professionalism is hard to find but these guys nail it.
Those folks that are curious about black metal but not exactly thrilled by the rawness and hate of the second wave scene will find a lot to like here. 1. The vocals aren’t overly extreme or pretentious. *** that wailing bull*** yo. 2. The album is highly melodic at times, contains many instrumental passages, and filled with catchy riffs. 3. The production is really clean, as in audible bass and distuniashable drums and vocals. The elitists might not like this record, but *** em. Overall, Vittra is a solid debut record that should appeal to fans of Agalloch, Ikuinen Kaamos, October Falls, Drudkh and later Empyrium.