While one may not consider North Carolina to be a hotbed of Viking activity, for the Melodic Folk Metal band Aether Realm, it is the home of their red-blooded type of Northman. Now, for the first time in three years, they return with Redneck Vikings from Hell on Friday, May 1st, 2020 via Napalm Records.
Looking back, Aether Realm, often stylized Æther Realm, was formed a decade ago with Lead Cocalist/Bassist Vincent “Jake” Jones, Heinrich Arnold on guitars/vocals, Tyler Gresham on drums, joined by Donny Burbage on guitar. Then, within a year of their formation, came the Odin Will Provide EP followed by their debut full-length, One Chosen by the Gods, in 2013, as well as Tarot in 2017.
Which leads us to 2020 where the band find themselves releasing their very first album through Napalm Records. Eleven songs in total, it all starts with the title-track “Redneck Vikings from Hell,” a booming intro with a folksy, up-swinging riff accompanying Jones’ rough expressions. Adding more interest, it plays between Arnold and Burbage’s face-melting solos in the verses and banjo-laden Folk rhythms.
From here, “Goodbye” offers a light and effervescent melody along with gorgeous singing by Jones. It is here the layering of vocals are in line with the euphonious guitar melody creating a powerful effect in the chorus. Furthermore, Gresham’s drumming hammers away in perfect obstinance as an organ sounds off as a delicate, starry piano melody carries the song away. Next up, “Lean Into the Wind,” is a wicked, fast-paced cut of triple time drumming, and shredding guitars. Accented by epic strings behind the brutality, it all comes together for a vivid tale of retrospection and the afterlife.
Moving right along, composed of patient piano works, swirling, starlit synth, and measured singing, “Guardian” is stunning ballad of protection and love. This is while “She’s Back” plays with sinister guitars, a forlorn choir, and ruffian vocals. Then, as its title notes, “Slave to the Riff” is laden with energetic, squealing notes amongst stupendous riff-work, plus a bouncing, heavy rhythm. Which leads us to “TMHC,” awakening the album into a blazing fury before the grand finale of the instrumentally superb “Craft and the Creator.”
With Redneck Vikings from Hell, Æther Realm delivers a bizarre and powerful album. The guitars range from speeding solos to bouncing, heavy rhythms further on to eloquent classical styles. That said, Jones and Arnold’s vocal performances weave together in a tapestry of ruffian growls as well as colorful singing that fit within each scene well. That is why Cryptic Rock gives Æther Realm’s Redneck Vikings from Hell 4 out of 5 stars.