Why would the main members of viking/progressive outfits Borknagar and Vintersorg create yet another band with some glaring similarities in both sound and themes with their main bands? After all, there have been really good releases from both, 2012 saw the records Urd and Orkan getting an avalanche of positive reviews. And both projects seem to have really strong ideas already in place for their next outings. Should they avoid the risk of getting too spread and creatively thin?
Both Andreas “Vintersorg/Mr. V” Hedlund and Øystein Brun don’t seem to be the conventional no-risk taking kind, and even though it’s clearly apparent after the first few seconds into Erathems that we are hearing an album from these two virtuosos, they manage to make an entire album of an experimental nature, taking their known strengths and adding some twists that hark back to Vertebrae era Enslaved at times, and some Arcturus avant-garde sound at others.
Hedlund is at his prime in the vocal department, and he goes almost seamlessly from claw-hand inducing shrieks to really melodious chorus that mix really well with the more conventional song structures, that nevertheless induce many good headbanging moments thorough the entire listen. Interesting rhythm changes and complexity is not absent, even some really scorching blast-beats make brief appearances, making really obvious this is not your usual progressive metal release.
Instrumentally, Erathems gets a good mix of orchestration coming from deftly programmed keyboards that echo theremin-like sounds in opener Cold Wave Eruptions or some oriental-influenced instrumentation in Ecocracy. Drums and other more conventional orchestral sounds also come from these synthesizers, that are aptly mixed with a decent production job (to my ears at least). Even if the synths and programmed drums are somewhat obvious, it’s still impressive how well they made it work in the whole album, being just a two man job. Of course, the strings are great with both Mr. V and Brun working in the guitars, with catchy riffs and solos being the really strong foundations of every song. Mr. V also plays the bass, that I must commend how well it was treated by the production, sounding really clear all around.
Lyrically, nature and ecology seem to be the theme of the record, with good thought-inducing verses, that go very well with the more symphonic sound, compared to their other outfits. It is a concept treated more straightforward than usual, being that Borknagar seems to take a more primordial approach and Vintersorg is really set into the elemental plot that will continue in his next productions. And even when there are clear glimpses of both styles still, their dominion of the language helps them to avoid appear to be out of fresh ideas.
A completely enjoyable record released in early November, Erathems was strangely and almost entirely ignored by most blogs and year end lists. With most blogs already way into assembling their lists, perhaps the release schedule hurt this record more than it should. It was just a few days ago when by brief mention I was made aware of it. Blown away when I heard the Bandcamp stream, it quickly became a favorite and I urge you to give it a listen. Even if you’re not a Borknagar nor Vintersorg fan, I’m sure you will find plenty to like in this Cronian release.