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Nordic Raid – Rise of the Northmen

Nordic Raid
Rise of the Northmen
by Max Elias at 20 January 2021, 8:40 PM

A sweeping epic feel provided by strong, clear guitar tones and bold melodies defines NORDIC RAID’s first album. The six minute-long opener introduces itself with a droning pull-off lick that reverberates under the surface for around the first two minutes, and sounds like a darker “Flash of the Blade”. The pull-off motif as a means of adding melody persists throughout “Rise of the Northmen”; shifting into higher registers when added punch is needed. Though the vocals are deep and difficult to discern, it feels like if you knew what they were saying, you’d be singing along—such is the anthemic quality of the riffing. Rather than pummel you with bursts of speed and technical flurries, NORDIC RAID prefers to swamp you with big, chasmic riffs, such as the intro to “Last Fortress”. The slightly thrash-inspired verse riff here calls to mind AMON AMARTH, and drummer Arthur Vollborn gets to stand out above the other members frequently, driving the music forward with his wild yet measured galloping rhythms.

All pagan metal acts seem to be obliged to write the same anti-Christianity song at least once, and NORDIC RAID is no exception. Their contribution to the trend is rather plainly called “Crush the Cross”, and it is a midpaced, neck-cracking frenzy. The song lives and breathes by its marching pedal-tone riff in the beginning, setting anyone who hears it moshing furiously. During the choruses we see again that Arthur Vollborn really is a fantastic drummer, livening up proceeding with drum fills everywhere. It does feel like whoever was recording fell asleep in the booth for a little bit, because after the song ends there’s about 20 seconds of silence, but that’s not a reflection on the music.

Did someone say pull-off riffs again? Because after the stomping glory of “Crush the Cross”, that’s what’s on offer with “Woman without Fear”, a return to more explicitly melodic fare. The main hook sounds like something KALMAH might have written, off a slower song like “The Trapper”. Of course the crunchy, girthy pedal-tone riffs make an appearance here as well, as they are practically a requirement for AMON AMARTH styled pagan or Viking metal, which this clearly is. It’s very well done though, so no complaints. I will say though, that I particularly enjoy riffs or moments where it feels more like the band being themselves, like the intro riff on “As Pagans We Are Born”, which is catchy and distinct enough from their influences to remain within the genre nut not simply be an imitation. They also introduce some variations on the theme as the song goes on, which is the mark of disciplined songwriting.

The only radical departures from NORDIC RAID’s ethos are the songs where keyboards are involved, such as the atmospheric and grandiose “Merciless Tides”. There are fewer standout riffs on the song; instead the whole of the band coalesces to create a tapestry of layered elements. There is an undercurrent of melodic guitar lines during most of the seven minutes, which incidentally is a bit long for a song that mostly stays in a triplet groove. There is a break around four minutes in where everything but guitars cut out, bringing the energy down and letting it build back up with an ominous arpeggiated line. “Merciless Tides” fades out and into “Our Legacy Won’t Fall” the same way it began; with ethereal, atmospheric keyboards. It seems like the latter song uses the keyboards a bit more than “Merciless Tides” does, however.

Rise of the Northmen closes with “Final March for Glory”, which ahs more in common with the latter few songs of the album than the first half. Gone are the clearly emphasized guitar riffs, pedal-tone or otherwise, in favor once again of a grander, more epic and enveloping approach. The melodies in the guitars are often conveyed through tremolo picked passages that blend with what the rest of the band is doing. Like on “Merciless Tides”, the only time one instrument gets to shine is during the break when everything but the guitar cuts out briefly. It even happens at around the same timestamp. “Final March for Glory” is also noteworthy for having the album’s only guitar solo (or solo-adjacent section).

NORDIC RAID have done a very good job considering this I their debut album. They are not always entirely original and can sound like AMON AMARTH went back a few albums to their earlier style on occasion, but they reproduce their influences well. Without question I would say my favorite song on the album is “As Pagans We Are Born”. Additionally, it feels like there were two distinct styles of songwriting on the two halves of the album; and I enjoyed listening to both aspects of the band, but I would look forward to seeing if they can mesh those two approaches together within the same song, so that strong, standout riffs can lead into all-encompassing swaths of sound, and vice versa.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Musicianship: 8
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
  1. Rise of the Northmen
  2. Last Fortress
  3. Crush the Cross
  4. Woman without Fear
  5. As Pagans We Are Born
  6. Bloodrage
  7. Merciless Tides
  8. Our Legacy Won’t Fall
  9. Final March for Glory
Lineup:
Arthur Vollborn – Drums
Momme Petereit – Guitars
Valentin Engel – Bass
Chris Heruth – Vocals
René Kӧrber – Guitars
Record Label: Independent
     


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