VredSymphonic dark beginnings give way to standard but free-flowing blackened death metal. There’s an air of confidence about this first full release from Norway’s Vredehammer whose previous recorded output had been three EP’s. I sensed an air of Vader in “Ctulhu”. It’s fast, furious, uncompromising and creepy with elements of melody. “Entertaining” may not be an appropriate word but this has a real flow, like blood rushing through veins. Then in this extremely acceptable chaos, I heard a familiar riff: it’s Opeth’s “Demons of the Fall”. In fact it’s “Seduce Infect Destroy”. Vredehammer achieve the same level of majesty, but here it’s supported with a dark and fearsome progression. There is a sudden change as this riveting track takes us into another dark and dangerous alley. Everything is going into this skilful performance. More relentless riffage follows on “Suicide Forest”, a determined and dramatic piece. Ideas abound, while there is great movement and developing drama, but all in the same grisly context. Those movements are subtle. The composition and structure are good.

After “Suicide Forest”, there’s more pulsating excitement as the band crank up the action with “We are the Sacrifice”. As continuous as it is extreme and powerful, a thought of Disbelief flashed across my mind. “Sykdom”, a further pulsating adventure, follows but this time with a surprising folksy section in the middle. It’s not quite hey-nonny-nonny stuff but in any case I thought it was unnecessary. Vredehammer have enough to say with their exciting brand of darkness. “Summoned” proves the point. Always mobile, it’s like being dragged into prickly bushes at speed. There’s a pause to tone things down and darken the atmosphere. The train is soon on full throttle again. The title track then starts in sultry fashion, but quickly it speeds up and becomes a fast and unstoppable adventure with an irresistible riff line. This essentially black metal album is full of twists and turns. For a moment, I thought I was listening to Omnium Gatherum. Vredehammer just go where their imagination takes them but they never lose sight of a song’s structure. Not for the first time I’m headbanging to rapid movements. In another moment of superbly executed timing, a deep voice enters the darkened room. The breaks are timed to perfection and are the signal for new flavours and transforming direction. “Admissa” closes proceedings, and provides a curious and disappointingly inconclusive ending to what has been an exhilarating ride.

I’d not heard of Vredehammer, but I’m glad I have now. They are far more than “another Norwegian black metal band”, providing great energy and a modern twist to a bunch of melodic metal songs. I’ll stick with “entertaining” as a description of “Vinteroffer”, and would add “accomplished” to capture the band’s technical and creative performance.

(8/10 Andrew Doherty)