Vintersorg – Solens Rötter

While I’ve always enjoyed Vintersorg’s earlier folk black metal work, I don’t derive much enjoyment out of his prog era. Not only do I generally dislike prog as a rule, but his delivery of such music always felt somewhat clumsy and inappropriate to me, as if what he really wanted to do was go back to folk and leave the prog material behind. Not that my opinion means much; his prog albums are some of the most highly heralded in the genre. I’d up to this point essentially resigned myself to never hearing another viking album from Vintersorg.

I’m extremely please to have been proven wrong. ‘Solens Rötter’, Vintersorg’s sixth full-length album, has eschewed much of the proginess of the last three albums and has added a great deal more folk back into the equation. The fully prog sections are now relegated to only certain stretches, and are very well weaved into the more traditional music found here. My sigh of relief could be heard from miles away; it’s a tremendously pleasing change for Vintersorg to go back to a slightly less complex, more epic variety of music. It pleases me to no end that when I listen to this album, I think of Windir and Moonsorrow instead of Dream Theater and Spastic Ink.

The best tracks here are the ones with an entire absence of prog passages, leaving them as pure, full, glorious folk metal tracks that wouldn’t be out of place on a Moonsorrow album. Opener ‘Döpt I En Jökelsjö’ is possibly the most beautiful on this LP; alternating acoustic and electrified soft/harsh passages are traditional but wildly imaginative and layered. There are perpetually at least four layers of compositions moving simultaneously in completely different yet congruent directions. This is almost folk metal for prog fans, maintaining the complex songwriting of prog and the inherent beauty and melodicism of folk. Even certain songs that are more purely prog work well when given an extra burst of folk melody, such as on ‘Från Materia Till Ande’, where Evergrey-style power/prog meets triumphant folk, resulting in a mixture that leaves something for everyone.

Every performance on this album is top-shelf. Instruments are all handled creatively and cleanly, and the same terms can be used for the production as well, which is crystal clear but not lacking personality. Andreas Hedlund’s vocals are indescribably good: his cleans (frequently overdubbed as a chorus) are enchantingly melodic but definitely powerful, and the Eisregen-style black metal rasps are employed very effectively and not to excess. The move back to all-Swedish lyrics was a brilliant one: Vintersorg’s mother tongue is perfectly fitting for music such as this. Perhaps the most daring move of his, though, is the instrumental track ‘Vad Aftonvindens Andning Viskar’, which somehow blends folk acoustic guitar and flute with jazz drumwork for a wonderfully graceful outro to a wonderful album.

The combination of prog and folk doesn’t always quite work out, unfortunately. ‘Naturens Mystar’ stumbles around a bit before pulling together in its second half, much like ‘Perfektionisten’, which also would have been better served by sticking to pure folk instead of prog. However, none of these passages are enough to significantly diminish the quality of ‘Solens Rötter’, which, as it stands, is one of the best folk releases so far this year. Every note drips of majestic beauty, and progressive fans and traditionalists alike should be sure to pick this album up. You will not be displeased.

(Originally written for http://www.grindingtheapparatus.net)

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~ by noktorn on March 18, 2007.

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