Once again I find myself sitting down to a livestream, yearning for the return of live music. My experience of these events has been mixed thus far, but Vreid were about to blow all that out of the water. This was to be the most professional and enjoyable livestream that I have seen to date and I suspect it will be released as a DVD/Blu-ray in due course, such was the quality of the footage and the unique nature of the event.

The coverage starts with views along the beautiful Sognefjord before a countdown leads into a short documentary piece about the local area and the band. There is a little bit about the history of the Kvåle family farm, which overlooks the village of Sogndal and the fjord, and its significance in the history of the region and Norway, as well as the important role it played in the evolution of Vreid and Sognametal.

Jarle Kvåle (Hvàll), Jørn Holen (Steingrim) and Terje Bakken, who grew up on the Kvåle farm, all went on to play key roles in this genre: Terje went on to form Windir while Jørn and Jarle formed Ulcus with Sture Dinsøyr (Sture) and Stian Bakketeig (Strom). In due course, they combined forces with Windir before Terje tragically died in 2004. Unsurprisingly, this led to the demise of Windir, but Vreid then rose from those ashes. Since that anguished beginning, Vreid have gone on to achieve global recognition and success and Sognametal is now a well-recognised subgenre.

Like many of their counterparts, Vreid had planned an extensive tour programme for 2020 until COVID19 turned the whole world upside down and decimated the live music calendar. Undeterred, Vreid decided to perform a special gig to stream to their fans around the world and they worked hard to make this a special event. The concert was to be hosted at the mountain farm of Nysete, which is has been the Kvåle family’s summer mountain farm for generations.

Once the brief, but interesting, introduction is over, the footage shifts to the Nysete farm for the concert. The band are stood amongst rocks on a hillside, next to the farm, with patchy snow on the ground. They are stood in front of trees with imposing snow-covered mountains providing the perfect backdrop for their epic black metal.

‘One Hundred Years’ and ‘Sólverv’ race by with galloping rhythms, sweeping melodies and harsh vocals to the fore. The camera work is outstanding with numerous close up and wide-angle views, interspersed with aerial views of the band and farm. This leads straight into ‘The Reap’ with great guitar work and a crystal-clear sound.

Sture Dingsøyr then takes a moment to mention the surroundings and goes on to explain that the next track ‘Millom hav og fjell’, was inspired by Norway’s true national anthem. Great melodic passages nestle comfortably amongst rampaging epic black metal, before the track leads into ‘Eldast, Utan å Gro’ with its paganesque melodies set to sweeping views of the valley and mountains.

Hvàll then says a few words, introducing the farm and inviting everyone back for a big party in 2021! He introduces the next song as having been inspired by bloodlines from “forefathers to aftercomers” before launching into the rousing ‘The Sound of the River’.

As this draws to a close, Hvàll takes a moment to introduce a special guest, Odne Røyrik (of Mistur and Sigtyr). He goes on to dedicate the next song to the memory of his father (Einar) and best friend (Terje) who died almost two decades ago. A sombre version of ‘Empty’ follows with all of the band looking emotional, especially Hvàll who is singing along to himself. Odne provides clean vocals as footage is shown of snow-covered mountains and the valley, providing an appropriately atmospheric backdrop to this thought provoking track.

Following a long pause, Sture begins to introduce the next track, explaining it is about historical figure, Arntor. In 1183, he led an uprising from Sogndål and Kvåle against the King’s governor in protest at taxes and oppression. This played a part in the build up to the Battle of Fimreite in 1184. Hvàll then reflects that this individual, and related events in history, were a source of great inspiration for Windir, and to make this live version of a Windir track particularly special, they invited Terje’s brother, Vegard Bakken, to join them before inevitably launching into ‘Arntor, ein Windir’. The contrast of the sublime melodies and Vegard’s harsh vocal style works well, and it was great to hear this version of the track.

Keeping things special, Hvàll, Sture and Vegard share vocal duties for ‘Dauden’, another Windir cover. Once again, epic melodies are brought to life by the stunning scenery and as the light begins to fade, the fire pits become more prominent adding more atmosphere.

We are then back onto more familiar territory for tales of the Norwegian resistance during the second world war and ‘Milorg’. A slow introspective intro builds into a rampaging gallop with poignant cries of “Fight for Freedom”.

Finally, Hvàll thanks people for watching before the last track ‘Når Byane Brenn’. A keyboard intro gets things going as the track gathers momentum into the familiar Sognametal style that has run through the whole set.

This evening was something truly special and transcended ‘Livestream’ boundaries. It brought us all to Vreid’s home with its spectacular scenery giving a personal touch as well as rarely and never before played tracks and poignant special guests. I hope this will be released as a DVD/Blu-Ray – The quality certainly allows for this, and with there being several mentions of coming to the farm next summer, might there be a Sognametal festival? I can dream!

(Andy Pountney)