February 22, 2021 Einherjer – North Star (Album Review)
Coming out of Haugesund, Norway in the recesses of the very early 1990s, Einherjer erupted from the heartland of Black Metal to the tune of their own war drum. Eschewing the trappings and tempo of the darkest of musical extremity, if not its anti-Christian sentiments, Einherjer took the cues from Bathory and launched a melding of genres collectively referred to as Viking Metal or Heathen Folk Metal. Now here they stand, in the winter of 2021, about to release North Star, their ninth studio album, on the 26th of February via Napalm Records.
Since reforming in 2009 after a six-year hiatus, the creation of Drummer Gerhard Storesund and Multi-instrumentalist/Vocalist Frode Glesnes has witnessed a sharpening of their attack, yielding a clutch of albums that here culminates with something which certainly advances their place above the hordes within Extreme Metal.
Releasing videos for opening sonic duo “The Blood and the Iron” and “Stars” Einherjer continues their reverential use of medieval imagery and Nordic battlegrounds to build excitement. The music is epic and mid-paced, built on solid riffs and a thick double-bass laden bottom end. Rolling into battle, we could be in for a more simplified, straight-ahead dose of verse, chorus, verse, but what makes Einherjer stand apart here is their penchant for classic metal soloing and instrumental breaks. It is something they are good at integrating, expanding them from a Viking Metal band to really a Nordic-themed traditional metal band with mostly growled vocals.
The bass guitar on “Stars,” which is a slower more considered song, is excellent and stands out in the mix. The song builds up into a fist-in-the-air chorus, Glesnes’ vocal yell both unique and yet familiar. Building like a wave, the guitar lead hangs in the air before another fantastic set of solos enriches the composition.
Meanwhile, “Higher Fire” has some serious Judas Priest-worship going on, and if this writer had not had recent insight into the inspiration coming from Einherjer’s aforementioned braintrust, it would become apparent, as their Heavy Metal natures pervade the music. Nevertheless, an atmosphere of Norwegian wilderness and mystery pervades these songs, and the marriage of the two styles is done with tenacity and verve.
“West Coast Groove” is another testament to the path of Einherjer and the land from which they draw inspiration, to which their blood can be traced. Again, for appreciators of the bass guitar, it is a pleasure that the instrument can be heard so clearly in the mix. The marching feel to the music is ever-present, but the love of true metal shines through. The soloing toward the end is one thousand percent horns in the air deliciousness – you won’t be able to listen and not air-guitar. The triumphant “Ascension” clocks in at over seven minutes, absorbing in its snowstorm of good riffing, and some gang vocal arrangements to increase that epic feel.
Einherjer further illustrate their grasp on making classic Heavy Metal mix with their passion for the Viking Metal of their homeland on “Listen to the Graves.” Up-tempo riffing joins to a menacing chorus which repeats the title, echoing the ancient lands and the toll of centuries; as the lessons of old permeate our modern culture. The mix will appeal to fans of Iron Maiden as easily as it will to fans of Thyrfing and Bathory. Concluding this new chapter, “Chasing the Serpent” comes last with its balladry and bardic demeanor, evoking compositions from the Dragons of the North era. The band is made to tell these tales, and as time passes they seem more and more suited for the task.
Overall, Einherjer has created something timeless here, melding elements and constructing an album of immense quality and peerless production, injected with feeling that though wrapped in a cloak of Nordic mythology and culture, reaches clear across the world to unite anyone who thrives on traditional Heavy Metal music. For this reason, CrypticRock gives North Star 4.5 out of 5 stars.