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Havamal – The Shadow Chapter Award winner

Havamal
The Shadow Chapter
by Eric Poulin at 08 June 2021, 6:38 AM

HAVAMAL is a melodic death metal band that started in 2016 and hails from Stockholm, Sweden. This is their debut album “The Shadow Chapter” released through Art Gates Records on May 21st 2021. If you enjoy your symphonic elements, choirs and effects, then you will highly appreciate the epic nature of the song “Fenris”, a song that quickly transcends into a more adrenaline-driven melo-death number akin to MORS PRINCIPIUM EST. Now only do melodies remind me of the latter, but so do the vocals when they are in a higher pitch (the death metal growls are much closer to AMORPHIS however). It has all the hooks fans of AMON AMARTH and WOLFHEART will groove to.

 “Nidhoggr” follows in the same positive and energetic vibes of the keyboard atmosphere to go into some mid-tempo riffs at times. I would say in terms of the overall output, it matches the earlier but adds an interesting layer in the guitar solos (imagine these Vikings playing solos at the top of a mountain after sweet victory, and I am certain you will get the idea). “Kraken” with its medieval – Game of Thrones intro certainly taps into the epic nature of song structures and uses the same slower patterns that switch to double-bass drums and an almost German thrash metal tirade. I like the fact they change tempos on this number, going into almost doom metal territory (like TIAMAT in their early days).

The middle eastern influences however in “Empire of the Ashen Sun” are quite intriguing. The vocals are also completely different, using more Viking hymns this time around, instead of only the traditional death growls. It is a slower with simpler rhythm parts, but I found it was one of the catchier songs on the entire album. I have always had a soft spot for these types of compositions as they leave more room for growth and an attentive ear, than the hyper-speed ones often found in the melodic death metal spheres. The closest the band gets to ENSLAVED or early NAGLFAR is the shredder “Nornir's Call”, sure to be an absolute crowd pleaser. The song does flirt a bit with black metal (hence the references to 2 bands I have appreciated for over 2 decades). Even if the melodies that are at the forefront are not the most complex, they serve their purpose in being played just enough to remain in your conscience, well after the album has finished playing.

If you have not been sold yet, there is one song that brought me back to when I first discovered KALMAH, arguably one of the strongest bands in the genre for over 20 years. This song ranks right up there with their albums. Again, the musicians have focused on memorability, over sheer aggression, or a plethora of guitars. They really master the art of mixing these keyboard parts (samples) with their majestic solos and rhythm portions. I have listened to my share of melodic death metal projects over the last 25 years, but it is rare I have a profound joy and pleasure listening to a new band for the very first time. The album flows perfectly from song to song, and while most of them use the same patterns and elements, everything still sounds fresh and has so much grandeur. The production is solid, the vocals are top notch and the musicianship is on another level. I guarantee we will see this band grow and become a major player in the scene in the very near future.

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

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. The North Awakens
2. Fenris
3. Nidhoggr
4. Kraken
5. Empire of the Ashen Sun
6. Nornir's Call
7. Jormungandr
8. Hel
9. The Curse of Grendel
Lineup:
Lennie - Guitars
Kjell - Guitars
Björn - Vocals
Andreas Herlogsson - Drums
Record Label: Art Gates Records
     


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