Over their last few releases, Sweden’s Ereb Altor have been pushing the boundaries of their Bathory-esque Viking Metal sound, sometimes darker, sometimes folkier – always epic. “Järtecken” sees an amalgamation of previous guises, delivered by a band suddenly brimming with confidence and sounding newly invigorated. I feel it’s no coincidence that band leaders Mats and Ragnar have composed and released 5 Ereb Altor albums in the same length of time they have done only 2 with their other project Isole – the scope for experimentation and musical exploration is far greater with Ereb Altor and “Järtecken” is certainly another large step forward in showing that.

Intro (an intro only really because it has an intro-type feel despite being nearly 5 minutes long…) ‘Avgudadyrkans väg’ is of course epic and sets the scene for ‘Queen of All Seas’ an 8 minute track that highlights what Ereb Altor 2019 are capable of – it’s both extremely heavy as well as being melodic, mixing moods and blending great riffs into a melting pot of epic Viking Metal. Next up however, just to show everyone that you can’t predict Ereb Altor they throw two tracks of Viking Black Metal at us, with touches of classic Immortal and Emperor mixed into their Bathory-influenced mainstay sound.

‘My Demon Inside’ arrives next and with a twist that smacks a little more of Moonsorrow this time around, mixing their much improved and more robust vocal styles to great effect and displaying a flash of great lead-work in amongst the shredding rhythms. Following track ‘Prepare For War’ slightly took me by surprise, centred around a fabulous main riff, it’s actually a great slab of double-kick driven Black/Thrash, bursting with energy and venom. Not what I immediately think of as Ereb Altor but definitely a worthy addition to this varied album. What you might call normal Ereb Altor service is resumed next with ‘Hvergelmir’, the albums longest track at just under 9 minutes, it blends what Ereb Altor have been delivering for their last three albums, crowned with these newly invigorated vocal styles that shine throughout the album.

“Järtecken” draws to a (almost) close via ‘With Fire in My Heart…’, another suitably epic track that also draws a little more on Nordic Folk in influence, incorporating Tyr-like elements to great effect. This melts perfectly into ‘…and Blood on My Hand’ which takes the excellent acoustic outro riff from ‘With Fire in My Heart…’ (which makes you think the album is drawing to a sombre finale) and delivers it as a heavier, lead riff insuring “Järtecken” leaves this world fighting – never surrender! “Järtecken” is Ereb Altor at their most varied best, pushing their sound even further, incorporating all previous styles that fans will have enjoyed and delivering them with even more vigour and conviction.

(8/10 Andy Barker)