Every student of Viking lore and heavy metal (and they are surely one and the same thing) should be by now be aware of the Einherjer – the myth and the band. The name for the legendary fallen warriors chosen by the Valkyries and taken to Valhalla to feast ahead of a daily battle to the death – before doing it all again the next day. Sleep, eat, slaughter repeat. Come forth the soundtrack to their march onto the eternal plains and one of Viking metal’s most unique and consistent bands. Still with its own formula and no doubt one written on parchment in blood and magically sealed in an oaken chest. The typically driving rhythms of Einherjer’s sound were evident early on: vigorous thrashy riffs, pagan atmospherics and addictive hard-edged folk metal flourishes – the occasional flashes of brilliance that I will not have to explain in any detail of long-time fans of the band.
Although there is almost always a track or two that immediately stands out like candy tossed to children, the overall experience has become increasingly key to an Einherjer album – like being gradually submersed into a runic landscape and the imagination of a band that has honed its own sound to perfection. 2011’s Norrøn was a classic in that vein – beginning with a 12 minute epic and rarely dropping the ball the entire way through. Not that Einherjer ever really drop the ball – but they do occasionally get tempted from the path, throwing in tracks that are just a little too accessible and choruses too simple. But then any slips are competently countered on Norrøne Spor with some nice building crescendos and blistering solos that hit just at the right time to help lift this album to its rightful place in Viking metal’s hall.
There no preamble as the band sets to work with The Spirit of a Thousand Years – a bludgeoning dawn raid on the senses that combines a classic staccato Einherjer rhythm with thrash-driven black metal fury. The second track immediately delves into a more malevolent and darker sound, surging up like a titanic serpents head from black waves, with exquisite use of the bands mastery of atmospherics and solos that rise like swords held to the wind. Three tracks in things are moving well – perhaps what’s needed is something to lift into a battle-ready state after 13 minutes of atmospheric spell-weaving. What we get instead is Kill The Flame – kind of catchy and released as a single (I’m sure it would prove a hit live) but perhaps the weakest track in my opinion with its basic melody that interrupts the gradually building atmosphere. Thankfully, it does not take things too long to get back on track with two of the album’s best tracks – including the gigantic rapid fire of Spre Vingene. While The Blood Song, which should work as a balladic dirge, but doesn’t, trips things up a little, the end of the album ends by weaving a little more magic – finishing with Av Djupare Røtter, the closest we have here to a Einherjer classic Norrøn Kraft or an Av Oss, For Oss-style epic to slap you round your chops and ensure this is a band you’re not going to forget in a hurry.
One issue that I will always have with Einherjer is consistency and arguably this album does more than almost any to bring an end to that. While there are a couple of tracks that didn’t quite fit the trend towards pure Einherjer atmospherics, the standard here is still decent and this is an album that, for the most part, should put a smile on the face of any heathen metaller.
(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)