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Vreid - Lifehunger

by Chris Hawkins at 08 October 2018, 5:08 PM

In all art, there is an ebb and flow, a push and pull between those that want to expand the given genre, and those that could be labeled purists.  There is perhaps no better litmus test for this than taking an up-close look at the Black Metal scene.  The tug of war between the two camps within Black Metal is like an enormously monster-sized map full of criteria including everything from dress and image to unique musical standards.  Some major points of contention include production style, incorporation of other genres, and overall catchiness.  This brings the focus now to the band serving as the topic of this focus, VREID, a Norwegian Black Metal band that will celebrate its fifteenth birthday next year.  Released just weeks ago, “Lifehunger” is the band’s eighth album.  The limits of Black Metal await the reader to define, but there will be a marked fullness of degree to which the issues are sorted out.  The conclusion will be made in the mind with myriad degrees of a plethora of topics.

After the instrumental opening track, “Flower & Blood,” “One Hundred Years” is the first full-fledged track.  Already, there is controversy.  While the song starts with mainly a Black Metal feel, the vibe is utterly slaughtered (not in a Metal way) with the inclusion of some clean vocals.  it is obvious what they are going for:  to replicate the vibe of ENSLAVED’s clean parts.  The truth is, though, that it sounds insecure, or better put, contrived.  Unfortunately, the album is already off to a bad start, but if someone likes stuff like VINTERSORG, they may dig it.

When the time arrives for the fifth track, one hits the true crossroads.  If the listener has been into the easier-to-swallow Black Metal thus far, it is likely the rest of the album will be enjoyed.  “Hello Darkness” for this writer, though, is the high mark of distaste so far.  After a brief, melancholy clean interlude, the band goes into a syncopated part accented by cow bell.  When Fenriz plays with cow bell, it somehow fits, but this is offensive to one’s taste.

The trend of sounding more commercial continues into the sixth song, “Black Rites in the Black Nights”.  The hook played over the first part reminds one of possibly being kin to the same source of influence that works for the band, GRAVE PLEASURES.  It seems to come naturally from them, but VREID sound like they are blatantly trying to grab someone else’s vibe by hopping on the Blackgaze train.  The chorus has a syncopated riff that works well to increase the intensity, yet it somehow seems to elude being totally impressive.

The band regained my attention with the seventh track, “Sokrates Must Die”.  In both the way it incorporated classic elements of Black Metal and exploring the expansion of them, this song burns its name atop the album’s tracks.  It also redirected me to the fact that the bass has a very dominant role.  Towards the end of the song, the whole band rhythmically drops out while the bass grinds away with the true grit of tenacity.

The production is more than adequate.  It seems they were going for an Andy Sneap-like sound, but his records have huger guitars.  The articulation from the pick is clearly heard from faster parts to palm-muted stuff, though, which is a coveted effect.  The bass and drums are both kicking, though it would have been better with a more punchy, snappy bass drum.  The parts with the acoustic guitar are the highlight of the record.  The crisp spark of golden-tongued acoustic guitar serves as a bright organic alternative to the lackluster commercial Black Metal.

Ultimately, the final judge for this record is the reader.  Personally, I can attest to it varying in degrees of like versus dislike according to mood.  I then must say that despite my candor, a massive head cold may be reflecting my mood.  I cannot say it is a bad album, nor that I totally dislike it.  I played it two nights ago and tonight and like it, while I couldn’t stand it last night.  The faults are all listed and effectively can be lumped into how commercial and catchy one wants the genre to allow among its members.  ENSLAVED and SATYRICON have done all this better, but you can’t blame these guys for trying.

Songwriting: 6
Originality: 6
Memorability: 6
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

1. Flower and Blood
2. One Hundred Years
3. Lifehunger
4. The Dead Hunt
5. Hello Darkness
6. Black Rites in the Black Nights
7. Sokrates Must Die
8. Heimatt
Sture – Guitars, Vocals
Hváll – Bass, Vocals
Steingrim - Drums
Strom – Guitar
Record Label: Season of Mist


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Edited 28 May 2023

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