Vintersorg seems incapable of standing still. I’m not saying he’s got ADHD or Restless Leg Syndrome or something, I mean his band is always looking to explore new avenues and ideas. The Borknagar vocalist has always used his eponymously titled studio project to explore every possible area of music that interests him, allowing a freedom to explore. It’s a journey that has led him back around to the more Nordic Folk influenced leanings of his earlier work and it’s clearly why the band have decided to revisit the musical vibe of 1998’s “Till fjälls” and bring us “Till fjälls, del II” which seems easily identifiable as a sequel. It all makes total sense…ok, not on the surface given my initial intro, but it starts to make sense when listening to the album.
Actually, whether it makes sense or not, the two albums are undeniably linked – aside from their title, they have the same approach and a similar outlook, but immediately the signs are evident that this incarnation is leaning towards the melodic. Now hang on there, don’t go chucking your Extreme Metal dummy out just yet, melodic is not a dirty word when presented here in a progressive, aggressive and forward thinking manner, with plenty of hard-hitting blast-beats, underneath heavy guitars and bass (talking of the bass, this release shows the Vintersorg recording debut of Simon Lundström, bringing a little more thunder to proceedings). Also, remember that I’m talking “melodic” compared the relatively anarchic arrangements of Vintergorg albums like “The Focusing Blur”.
So why in particular “Till fjälls, del II”? Maybe it’s the musical approach as well as a lyrical approach, but there IS that unmistakable link between the epic black/folk metal of the 1998 release and the attitude of this eventual sequel, just realized in a 2017 way. Sometimes they seem quite different and then other times the music is so utterly reminiscent of Vintersorg as it was, just with the addition of experience and time. The ideas were always there, but different times bring different stances. There’s no denying the favouring of clean vocals on this album, which are as fine as ever, with plenty of fabulous harmonies and memorable hooks, with the harsh side of vocals reserved for impact and variation. A mix that suits this album’s mood and arrangements perfectly.
There seems to be quite a bit of lead guitar scattered around which backs up a more straight-edged Metal attitude which is another great addition and little touches like the ethereal female vocals on ‘Varflod’ enhance things nicely as well. There’s a fabulous amount of mood-swings within the album, splashes of orchestration and acoustic moments alongside extreme metal, yet always staying true to the original remit. There’s wonderfully familiar Vintersorg trademarks (with hints of Cronian and Borknagar) that fans will recognize dotted around the album, with so many ideas that draw on the past and the present. It’s also a bonus (literally) that the band have chosen to include four tracks as an extra disc that were unrecorded songs, initially intended to go on the debut “Hedniskhjärtad” EP. Here they are given the modern Vintersorg treatment and fit perfectly with the parent album, another illustration of that link from past to present and any long-term fan like myself will enjoy their addition.
With Vintersorg’s previous release I commented on this hallowed site that it was my favourite album to date. Well, I reckon they’ve thrown another belter out there and might just have gone one better again. It takes a while for Vintersorg albums to truly and fully bare their souls, which is part of their endearing longevity for me, but I’ve got no doubt that this is an album I’ll be returning to many times in the future.
(8.5/10 Andy Barker)