I was always a great fan of Windir and when in unfortunate circumstances Vreid was formed out of their ashes, I followed them too. Vreid’s first album “Kraft” (2004) continued the Windir approach where fresh modern black metal found an intersection with nature.
Eleven years on, “Sólverv” (Soltices) is Vreid’s seventh full album release. The spirit of black metal is present as always. “Haust” (Autumn) sways between a nebulous beginning, rapid fire-breathing and a hint of symphony. Towards the end there’s a guitar solo. All eggs seem to have been placed in one basket. So too the title track, which follows, is not uniform, switching midstream to a modern style after a fairly desultory first half.
I cannot deny that this album is not varied in style, and it has many classic melodic black metal qualities, enhanced by the vocals being in Norwegian, which gives that extra rasp. On the other hand classic metal styles are mixed in with the rampant black metal without enhancing the atmosphere. Such is “Geitaskadl”, which is interrupted by a strange melancholic passage before whistling back to the driving fields of the first section. Whistling is the word, as the background ring has the old school air I associate with Dimmu Borgir’s “For All Tid”. A classic metal guitar passage enters the fray. The variations and mix of old and new school make this some sort of hybrid progressive album. My opinion is reinforced still further when “Ætti sit Fjedl” has a chorus, which is like warriors in a Finnish forest. The harsh rasping returns and takes us forward, to remind us that so-called black n roll is at the core of this work, in spite of Vreid’s best efforts to shake us off the path.
A very dark electronic tune then enters the scene. It’s completely different and could have gone on as its sinister tones created a ghoulish atmosphere, but instead the wind changes direction again and rapid-fire and merciless black metal song ensues before it breaks into a more classic metal style. The impressive electronica returns but just to end the track. The purpose of such contrast and change is not clear, and this is a problem I had all along with this album. “Storm frå Vest” (Storm from the West) has fire and drive but I was getting suspicious that it was going to digress into something unrelated. There is a short interlude but for once the track keeps to its general pattern and is all the better for it. I liked the war-like and haunting beginning of “Fridom med Daudens Klang” which finally built up to an impressive and shuddering level of excitement. After a brief quiet interlude, the track explodes and ends on a fiery and epic note. The nine minutes of “Fridom med Daudens Klang” was worth waiting for but it’s a pity the previous tracks didn’t have the same epic structure and sense of rising occasion.
For me this was like a compendium of black metal with other styles mixed in. I know it is their style to cross the boundaries but it doesn’t entirely work for me. The constituent parts were all fine but there was just no continuity about “Sólverv” or any apparent reason for the lack of it.
(6/10 Andrew Doherty)