Storytellers are abundant in heavy metal, from Iron Maiden to Dio to King Diamond, and cracking open a record and getting lost in a narrative set to loud, epic music is as good a reason as any to embrace the genre we discuss every day. Getting to take a journey in, say, 45 minutes is a great way to be enthralled if you don’t have time to devote to a book.
The tales themselves can be, and have been, quite varied, from trips back into ancient history to adventures through graveyards to following the steps of a psychopath, and people who trash metal and deem it some sort of lowest common denominator form of art aren’t truly paying attention to the time, thought, and imagination going into some of this music. For example, if you played “Operation: Mindcrime” for someone today who had never heard the record before, they’d be able to find the piece just as relevant and scathing as it was when it was released. Try to make that same case for the pop music world. You’re lucky if something still holds true value a year later.
Following this thread is another one of metal’s more ambitious storytellers, albeit not one quite as well known as the bands listed above. Norway’s Vreid spent two of their last three albums building concept pieces about the effects of World War II on their homeland, a direction that may not be all that well-known to us here in America, where all we hear is the folklore of our own nation’s involvement. They made for poignant, interesting pieces that certainly made an American like me think a little differently about how other nations were impacted. Their last record “V” expressed a theme of liberation, and now their new platter, the stunning and infectious “Welcome Farewell,” delves into a lifecycle based on short stories seen from an existential point of view. The tales are those similar to the village in which bass player Hváll lives, and the material is some of the band’s most personal yet.
Vreid certainly can be tagged a black metal band at heart, but they have a ton of melody behind their work, as well as some pure rock and roll spirit that makes their work so catchy. It’s not quite “Wolverine Blues” in its essence, but it’s a similar idea. It’s damn energetic and a ton of fun to hear blaring from your speakers or headphones. Comprising Vreid is the aforementioned Hváll, as well as vocalist/guitarist Sture Dingsøyr, guitarist Strom (who joined the band in 2010 and also played with the other three in Windir), and drummer Steingrim. They sound both focused and loose on this sixth record, and it’s a really involved, dynamic album that practically begs for repeat listens.
“The Ramble” opens the album warmly, with synth and a slow build, but then it blows open, simmers in a doomy guitar line, and Dingsøyr does his creakiest best, sounding a lot like Abbath from Immortal, pushing the storyline forward by howling, “Through the darkness, I ramble.” “Way of the Serpent” is fast and aggressive, with shrieky vocals, melodic passages, and thunderous lead guitar work that reminds of golden era Maiden. “The Devil’s Hand” is black and roll at Vreid’s very best, as the tempo is catchy and exciting and will get your blood pumping. The title cut has an opening reminiscent of classic, ’80s era metal, giving off a feeling of nostalgia for people like me, and the song goes from clean atmospherics to rumbling storming breathlessly.
“The Reap” is more rock-oriented, with the tempo sounding a bit like Blue Oyster Cult, and Dingsøyr’s vocals are more on the talky end and are full of personality. This was chosen as the first single from the album, which is a wise choice as it has the best chance to pull in people unfamiliar with Vreid and get them into what’s going on. “Sights of Old” is ominous and eerie, with some proggy fog and metallic violence, and the eight-minute song never drags and doesn’t even feel half this long. That’s how well it’s put together and played. “Black Waves” has a gothic feel to it, and Dingsøyr brings back the speak-singing, which he does well and charismatically, and it totally feels like NWOBHM power. Closer “At the Brook” finishes the album going back to a rock feeling, and it could complement “The Reap” as a track that helps lead this record and band into more people’s homes.
Vreid have done it again, coming up with a great record that keeps you tied into the storyline and once again refining their style of black metal. “Welcome Farewell” is a very well done record that sounds sharp, is always exciting, and shows these guys at the top of their game. I’m always intrigued as to where this band will go next, but for now, I’ll be more than satisfied spending time with this smasher.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.vreid.no/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.indiemerchstore.com/item/18348/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.indierecordings.us/