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Helheim - landawarijaR Award winner

by Erika Kuenstler at 25 April 2017, 9:33 PM

Not ones to sit on their laurels, it didn't take Viking/Black Metal masters HELHEIM very long after their exceptionally well received album “raunijaR” to release its successor, “landawarijaR”. And even after having been around for the better part of two and a half decades, one of the hallmarks of HELHEIM is how they still manage to be fresh and creative, with their ninth full-length album being no exception. As with all of their releases, “landawarijaR” has a distinctly Norwegian flavour to it, conjuring soundscapes of untamed and indeed untameable wilderness, countenanced with stark and raw beauty. The continued inclusion of horn and timpani should come as no surprise, and as before, are skilfully and subtly interwoven into the tracks rather than haphazardly strewn about, as too many unfortunately tend to do.

This album seems to contain everything, from majestic and haunting atmospheres through to unbridled moments of pure emotive passion. Starting off with the shimmering ambiance of the mysterious “Ymr”, this song thematically deals with the use of Norse heritage to define yourself and your journey through life, taking the listener through roiling soundscapes. “Baklengs mot intet” on the other hand charges frantically into the fray, amalgamating moments of sheer grandiosity, rabid sections of relentless onslaught, and plummeting depths of despair. This is all tempered by searing solos and passages of clean vocals, duetting back and forth, swelling to a climatic finale, telling a mournful tale of how difficult it can be to try incorporate ancient ways into modern life. This stands in stark contrast to the up-beat melodic emphasis and slower pace of “Rista blóðørn”, which sees some dazzling clean vocal sections woven together with a dreamy tapestry of minimalistic instrumentation. At the pinnacle we find the title song “landawarijaR”, which is arguably the highlight of the album. Right from the first few scything notes of the opening chords, this song mercilessly keeps you in a compelling stranglehold for ten relentless minutes, with ferocious tremolos giving way to more melodic guitar licks and off-beat drum-work which have no less of a bite. No less resplendent, the hazy and semi-quixotic “Ouroboros” has some truly captivating solo work; an aspect which is carried over to the following song. Taking the penultimate spot is “Synir”, in which the snarled and spat vocals charge forth with an aggressive attack, palliated by chunky bass lines. Perhaps saving the most oscillatory for last, “Enda-dagr” starts off with a mellow swaying melody with an almost sleazy hook. However, this soon gives way to even more ethereal melodies, leading the album to a mesmerising end on feathersoft tendrils of dreamy strains.

Featuring several guest musicians, their unique influences help to expand the diversity of the album even further. “landawarijaR” is nothing short of a rich, intricate, and excellent release, and doubtlessly yet another crowning gem in HELHEIM's discography. Overall, “landawarijaR” is filled with breath-taking depth and a myriad dimensions, allowing for completely new facets to be uncovered with every renewed listen. It is exceptionally rare for me to award an album with full points, but the masterpiece of “landawarijaR” deserves no less. With this release, HELHEIM prove once more that they are an unstoppable force and woe betide anyone or anything standing in their way.

Originality: 10
Memorability: 10
Songwriting: 10
Production: 9

5 Star Rating

1. Ymr
2. Baklengs mot intet
3. Rista blóðørn
4. landawarijaR
5. Ouroboros
6. Synir
7. Enda-dagr
V'gandr - Bass, Vocals
Hrymr - Drums
H'grimnir - Vocals, Guitars
Reichborn - Guitars
Record Label: Dark Essence Records


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