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Freja – Tides

Freja
Tides
by Justin "Witty City" Wittenmeier at 12 April 2022, 6:42 AM

At the last edition of the famous Roadburn festival, an ensemble of Dutch black metal musicians performed under the banner of MAALSTROOM.  This collaboration created several more projects, including FREJA.  The two members, C of WITTE WIEVEN and W. Damiaen of LASTER and WILLOOS, struck up a creative and romantic union and thus a new band was born.  Falling in love and forming a black metal band?  If that isn’t the dream then I don’t know what is.

The result of all this is their full length debut, “Tides.”  The music contained within these six tracks and 39 minutes of run time is dense and layered but permeated by both black metal’s aggressiveness and enough melodies to give it all an epic feel. This is one of those album that you’ll want to hear again just to make sure you got it all the first time. But despite the in depth song writing, the album doesn't feel overly complicated but rather clean and refreshing—a journey of discovering lies within the album.  In that respect, it definitely has some post-metal vibes mixed in with the black metal madness but the duo doesn’t let the confines of either genre pigeon hole them.

The production is just gritty enough without taking away any of the nuanced details but I do wish the drums were louder in the mix—it is very hard to hear them, especially the snare.  The clean chants are also too loud in the mix and, at times, over power the music. It is the production/mixing result that makes the songs blend together somewhat but each track has something good to offer. But, in the end,  the song writing is on point so let’s dive into this beast, shall we?

Our Chosen Path,” begins the album like any black metal album should begin: fury, fire, and guts.  The guitars rocket through the songs, propelled by the drums.  The vocals, which are both blackened screams and growls, fit into the landscape just as they should.  As I mentioned before, I’m not totally sold on the cleans but I’ve heard worse.  The middle of the song is melancholic and made of riffs that are heavy yet spacious enough to allow the song to breathe out naturally, an even flow down it’s…wait for it…chosen path.

Scattered Shields,” has an ominous groove and ancient melodies that mix to form a soundscape that is cinematic in its approach but hard enough to satisfy any discerning metalhead. Much like the first track, the music has these little moments where the instruments sort of hang back for a second to let other ideas in.  It is the space between where the band really shines, as this enables them to capture every second with the single goal of none of it being wasted and all of it being important. The screams around the 2:08 mark are harrowing as hell and it adds an arcane feel to the mood.  The song’s middle portion is a fantastic frenzy of blackened chaos—the band knows exactly when to hang back yet isn’t afraid to burst forward at a moment’s notice.

Dusk,” is my favorite song on the album—everything about this song is just so…moody and expansive.  The extreme parts, especially the vocals, are nearly frightening but there is a certain pensive quality about the music that just speaks volumes—it reminds me of ENSLAVED in places.  The clean vocals here are much better as well, perhaps because the aren’t big and chanty but more streamlined and focused. Speed and aggression find their place here, the band never forgetting their black metal sound and always finding a spot for it.

Cataclysm,” has a sort of rock and roll vibe too, much like ENSLAVED’sVertebrae,” album but more aggressive in places, of which you will get no complaints from me about. But the way song is presented is very…flowing, in that it settles into a vibe and naturally proceeds from there.  Without a doubt, this is the most expansive song on the album and one of the most interesting. I think this song, together with “Dusk,” represents most the style the band was going for on this debut.

Of Those Stricken By Fate,” contains ethereal vocals and clean instrumentation but I’ll be damned if it is as lush and layered as the other tracks, plus downright beautiful.  It is a nice change of pace but I can’t help but feel it should have come a track earlier. The final track is the “Cloaks Of Valor,” and it weaves melody into the space between in a catchy and enchanting way.  The vocals and low rumble of the guitars after the three minute mark are vicious, a fire within the storm of the track.  Around the seven minute mark, this fire appears to smother out, replaced by clean tones that are just as important to the song.

FREJA’sTides,” is one hell of a debut and the potential they show on it is near staggering.  I have no doubt their next album will rip up the underground and stun the metal community.  I cannot wait to see where their music takes them, and me, next.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 7

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Our Chosen Path
2. Scattered Shields
3. Dusk
4. Cataclysm
5. Of Those Stricken By Fate
6. Cloaks of Valor
Lineup:
C. - High pitched screams, clean vocals, guitars, bass
W. Damiaen – Lower grunts, clean vocals, drums, bass
Record Label: Babylon Doom Cult Records
     


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