Go on, then, guess what sub-genre of metal this might belong to….? Got it in one. Viking metal from Bedfordshire, which is fine by me.
Sadly his album has not exactly had an easy genesis. Cult Of Frey changed their name to Sleipnir a good while back after breaking up and reforming. Sadly, firstly Facebook got all confused and thought they were a German racist skinhead band and issues arose. Then their label, the underground stalwarts UKEM, got hit by it with someone reporting them or something and the page closed, a new one had to be opened and Cult Of Frey thought it best to go back to their old name (and hey, I prefer it for what it’s worth). Oh yeah and then Covid-19 seems to have turned the European based pressing/printing people UKEM use into a bit of a disaster zone (just ask Ante-Inferno about that…) so this release has been a bit pushed back.
Some guys really don’t get a break do they?
Anyway, it’s here. So, what have we got?
Well if it’s Amon Amarth you’re after, look away now. Opener ‘We Were Born Of Odin’ is a quiet, gentle intro, a folk and clean vocal chant before a huge slow windswept riff born on keyboard wings glides in. With echoing, epic backing vocals to raise the gruff lead vocals and a rousing refrain for the heathen hordes this is clearly Viking metal of a different order. It has to be said this is a fantastic album opener; full of pride and emotion. The drumming rolls on like slow thunder and there’s a touch of the Forefather to the way the melody works its magic.
The twelve-minute epic ‘Lament Of the Fallen’ is next, again a slow to mid paced song with doooom running through its veins. With the folk feel to it, this is the kind of music that would go down superbly at something like Runagaderung or Warhorns. There’s something about the solemn riffs, the half spoken, gruff vocals and the use of keyboards that is both honest and earnest. Little interludes which remind me of late eighties, early nineties experimental medieval black metal as it flowed into dungeon synth simply bring it into sharper focus. Thoughtful and thought provoking it envelops the listener, makes me feel as though I can feel the creaking of a deck beneath my feet as fog rolls in over some new cove.
As we are led through this and into the battle of ‘The Bravest Ones Are First to Fall’ I think I’m already converted. Cult Of Frey have just the most wonderful touch when it comes to those melodies that swell in your gut and burst your heart. The folk touches are perfectly judged, and though strong this is not folk metal. It is what it sets out to be; epic Viking metal. The haunting ‘Northwind (Carry Him Home)’ a true lament, semi-acoustic and bare bones with great harmony vocals is just another step towards ‘We Forge This Land (In Blood And Steel)’, ‘Ten thousand Strong’, ‘Life In The Shield Wall’ and ‘Death In The shield Wall (Song Of the Ravens). All combine real metal with a deep, true and tangible ‘traditional’ feel when they rely on the vocals and percussion alone such as on the wonderful closing track.
Ah, this is a long album, a saga. A true journey with rich melody, superb riffs and drumming and truly excellent vocal arrangements. It grabs you by the heart and the guts and makes you believe that you were there. It’s genuinely, in my opinion, exceptional.
Got to admit I wasn’t expecting this to be so good.
Honest, true, emotional, epic. The road has been fraught with perils to get here, but, guys, this is worth every step. Best UK Viking metal I’ve heard since the (very different) Valafar’s Wolfenkind.
Glory, and Hail.
(8.5/10 Gizmo and I’m probably being stingy)