Canadians seem to have a particular knack for invoking the ancient spirits of pagan Europe and Völur are no exception. Clearly there’s a link, and they are arguably closer geographically and culturally to Europe than their US neighbours, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. But with Forteresse likely to impress with their latest release too maybe we can mark this year down as mini-renaissance for the Canadian pagan metal scene as far as the rest of the world is concerned. Could it be there’s something in the water (or should that be the permafrost)? Either way the depravations brought by long winters, dark nights and the warm glow of the home fire seeps through Völur.
Focusing on doomy compositions spearheaded by disconsolate bass guitar, violins and the odd drifting vocal Disir sounds like an all encompassing mourning lament. For me the mood invoked is similar to the likes of Árstíðir Lífsins and, probably even more so, Skuggsjá. This reaches deep inside the marrow in a way that few of what I would regard as ‘proper’ pagan metal bands do – into a bleak existence of spirit worlds and the inevitability of human fate. The four compositions are re-releases of the band’s 2014 demo and based on visions of female spirits of land, sea and forest and, we can assume from the tone of most of the music, the tales do not end well.
The opening track introduces a harsh sounding riff before giving way to the more doleful violin on the second track and into a more ethereal sound. The lighter more pastoral third track lifts the weight of emotion slightly before the ambience of the fourth track eventually fold back into earlier themes. There’s definitely something going on here that I initially thought I’d get into given enough time but that I never quite did. Maybe it’s because, even though some of the tracks are lengthy and undoubtedly captivating, it feels like the ample 40 minutes or so wasn’t enough time to draw me in despite repeated listens. If you’re going to flirt with ambience and repetition you probably need to make sure there’s enough in the other bits to make it worth my while sticking through to the last.
As with a lot of these folk metal albums that place the emphasis on the folk perhaps even more than the metal – classic Prophecy stuff – I feel like it’s something that might eventually click into place if I suddenly find myself in the right frame of mind when the random-player suddenly squeezes it into my eardrums. Völur have definitely left an impression. Maybe I’ll check out last year’s Breaker of Oaths single and take it from there. But, while this is a good trip into the pagan ether, it might take some time or a more incendiary follow-up for me to be wholeheartedly recommending it.
(7.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)