To release five albums in five years nowadays is going some, even when it’s your only band, but when you are in two recording units (the main two songwriters of Ereb Altor are also members of Doom band Isole), it shows real commitment to the cause! As it stands, this is actually their seventh full length album and counting (if you include last year’s covers album – check out Chris’ excellent review elsewhere on Ave Noctum). As that covers album’s weighty preference of songs by Bathory suggests (that would be ALL the songs on the album…), it’s clear where Ereb Altor’s sound takes it’s cue from, and that’s still the case here, but there is further signs of experimentation and expansion within their vision.
Beginning as a duo, Sweden’s Ereb Altor have gradually grown into a four-piece with guitar and vocals as always being shared by Mats and Ragnar, drumming duties ably handled by Isole sticks-man Tord, plus bassist Mikael who joined in 2014, incorporating a mix of clean and harsh vocals. There’s no denying that the majority tracks on “Ulfven” are favouring the clean style a little more than previously with some instantly memorable vocal lines (though the two styles are still evident on every song, the much-improved clean style has grown more in delivery and stature), punctuating the now-expected interesting and mighty arrangements. None of the band’s intensity has been lost, this is just another point in their ever evolution.
Musically, as well as Bathory, the overall sound to “Ulfven” has elements of Moonsorrow, Falkenbach, Enslaved, Primordial and Tyr, which gives you not only an idea of the band’s preferred style, but also the variation of moods the band are able to capture – this also enables the band to throw in a massive slab of Amon Amarth meets Epic Black Metal in ‘The Rite Of Kraka’ (just in case anyone was thinking Ereb Altor had gone too melodic). There is also a good dose of doom (you can’t discount the Isole influence), but again Ereb Altor try to push it a step further with the almost funeral pace to the main parts of ‘Wolfcurse’, which gives the quicker central section suitable impact.
Have Ereb Altor finally have found their ultimate sound on this release? Well, no, probably not, as they are an ever evolving beast – but they’ve built on the Pagan/Viking sound they captured on “Fire Meets Ice”, and stepped back from the much darker “Nattramn” in order to move in other directions. They’ve still got that balance of Heavy/Doom/Black/Pagan and Viking Metal, blended together in their own way, but their willingness to record what feels right enables them to perform anything from harsh, quick-hitting Black Metal to epic 10 minute Pagan Metal anthems (like closing track ‘Bloodline’), and still make the whole album a coherent, flowing force. Who knows what Viking territory the band will head off to with their next release – but that’s the appeal of Ereb Altor, they’ve seen the variation that Quorthon envisaged for this style of music and they’ve run with it, showing more and more avenues and areas to push into whilst still maintaining their own core sound and aggression.
(7.5/10 Andy Barker)