The good side of folk metal
Anyone who has read my reviews over the years may be aware of my general repulsion when it comes to folk metal. It’s not a genre that I hate per sé, but it’s definitely one that rubs me the wrong way more often than not, what with its upbeat jigs and major key melodies and all that. Why review the new Vintersorg I hear you ask. It’s a fair question and the answer is twofold. Firstly, I’ve been hearing great things about the album so I wanted to see what the fuss is about and, secondly, it’s never a bad thing to get out of your comfort zone once in a while and challenge yourself. So here we are with Vintersog’s eighth full length release, Orkan, and I can safely say that the reports of its quality are most definitely accurate.
It’s true that Orkan is definitely a highly folk oriented album but there is a strong black metal underpinning to the material as well which creates a welcome juxtaposition and a textural depth to the material on offer that balances out the light and shade of the compositions extremely well. It is the band’s ability to seamlessly transition a soaring, clean-sung vocal passage into a grittier, blast beat driven black metal riff that makes Orkan the frequently dazzling feast for the ears that it is while the almost playful nature that sits at the heart of the compositions makes it practically impossible not to get swept up in the wider narrative which, for the more observant of you out there, is “air” (Orkan is Swedish for hurricane and the album serves as the second release in a planned quadrilogy of albums dealing with elemental nature).
While it is an adjective that is too often overused and is often done so inappropriately, there is an unmistakable element of the epic in Orkan which tends to be found in the lofty, masterfully composed choruses that sit at the heart of each of these eight tracks. There are indeed some tracks that exploit this grandiose sound better than others, and these tend to be the album’s longer cuts but, overall, the infectious choruses are consistently present and act as a dependable binding agent of sorts throughout the entire 50 minute running time of the album, doling out sweet sonic nectar to the musical pleasure centres with just enough frequently to keep you hanging for your next hit.
Being that I’m unfamiliar with Vintersorg, this may come as old news to those who are already fans, but I was particularly impressed with the vocal performance of Vintersorg (the man). The dude has an excellent set of lungs on him and can wail with the best of them and can hit a respectable vocal range but he also manages a solid black metal rasp as well. Like the music that accompanies him, his ability to segue between a multitude of vocal approaches seamlessly and fluidly is really quite impressive and he uses this skill to further accentuate the textural elements of the underlying material, adding greater depth and timbre to an already rich palette in the process.
I’m actually quite surprised at how taken with Orkan I’ve become in the relatively short time I’ve had with it, especially in light of my general disposition towards this kind of material in the first place. Vintersorg have crafted an album that is full of hooks, lush instrumentation, and, most importantly, a depth of character that is fun but also beautiful and even sometimes melancholy at the same time. I may not be a convert to folk metal (and probably will never be) but Orkan has definitely made me a convert to Vintersorg.