Review Summary: Encompassing the aesthetics of black metal's second wave and Scandinavia's Nordic spirit, Av Norrøn Ætt is a crown jewel among the genre and stands just as tall as Bathory's famed masterpiece.
Arm yourselves with chain-mail and sharpen your weaponry. Ready your breakfasts and pack your mead up tight for the perilous journey that lies ahead. As you and your Norse brothers awake into the pure frostbitten darkness of Scandinavia, the longship that will take you to battle emerges into the scene. With gear in tow and prayers to Odin to gain his blessing out of the way, your clan embarks upon the vast, arcane ocean with a bloodthirsty vengeance to instill upon your enemies........
After Blood Fire Death, Av Norrøn Ætt is the second most essential viking metal album to own. Encompassing the aesthetics of black metal's second wave and Scandinavia's Nordic spirit, Av Norrøn Ætt is a crown jewel among the genre and stands just as tall as Bathory's famed masterpiece. Featuring the raw, aggressive tendencies of early black metal with profound musical experimentation and masterful songwriting, Av Norrøn Ætt hits you like a berserker charge to the abdomen. The proud owner for this crowning achievement is Helheim, a long-running and well respected black metal band hailing from Bergen, Norway. Formed in 1992, Helheim have banged and bashed with the best of the fabled Norwegian scene of yesteryear. Like countrymen Enslaved, Helheim played a distinctly viking folk influenced type of black metal before evolving into a more progressive outfit. But enough about their later music, let's talk about 1997's Av Norrøn Ætt.
Featuring seven songs and coming in at fifty-five minutes, Av Norrøn Ætt is atypical in it's shortened format. As evidenced by the song durations you can expect songs to reach or surpass eight minutes. However, do not feel concered because the songs never bore. Rather they entertain and capture the hearts and ears of their (captive) audience. The music lends itself to the classic period of Norwegian black metal with the harrowing screams, combative tempos and gallant tremolo picked patterns of the second wave, but, rather then just leave it at that, Helheim go one step further and inject the music with personality and flair. Violins, Trumpets, didgeridoos, female vocals and piano are all incorporated into the mix, weaving crude violence with mystical beauty.
One potent aspect of this record is the multifaceted vocal approach that is utilized. Comprised of dynamic male screams/growls/cleans and operatic female cleans, Av Norrøn Ætt likes to mix it up vocally. The prominent style used are the raspy screams and growls, blending well into the blistering black metal assault, but, the male/female cleans are just as engaging, if not downright enchanting. The guitar parts boast just as much talent and diversity as the vocals. Alternating between furious tremolo picking and docile melodic chords in addition to the tempo manipulation of low to high, Helheim know how to set moods and atmospheres exceptionally well. All in the day of a busy north man's life. The shades and textures range from pre warring silence to glorious triumph and finally to folky, alcohol drenched celebrations in the pagan forest. The rhythm section is equally impressive as the drumming produces and maintains militaristic feel throughout the recording. The double-bass and drum fills provide a lot of the energy that is contained in this recording. Bass can not be left out because it plays it's role just as well as the others. Emitting a deep, strong tone, the bass compliments the guitars movements as well as standing out on it's own.
Production is perfect for the record. It's not clean or overly polished and it's not basement raw either. The instruments and vocals are all evenly matched and sound phenomenal. Av Norrøn Ætt finds the perfect middle ground with an atmosphere that is distinctly 90's. I highly recommend this album to metallers everywhere regardless of genre preference.