|Review: Kroda - Fimbulvinter|
Label: Hammermark Art
Year released: 2007
Genre: Folk Metal
Review online: January 30, 2009
Reviewed by: Brett Buckle
Rated 4.36/5 (87.27%) (11 Votes)
In my review of Kroda's Towards the Firmaments Verge of Life... I described their style of heavily folk-influenced Black Metal, rife with traditional folk instrumentation and furious metal riffage, but where the feeling of that album was one of summery warmth, Kroda have, with their 2007 opus Fimbulvinter, taken the more oft travelled Black Metal path of icy winter.
Throughout the album the listener is still treated to the delightful traditional instruments, namely Drymba, Sopilka and pipes, but on here they play much more of a supporting role than on Kroda's previous output. The main focus here is the guitars, which, among some fantastic folky melodies, let rip with a shitload of good old fashioned riffs. The production is superb, with each instrument clearly audible and a nice sharp guitar sound, that doesn't so much provide the cold atmosphere with its tone, but rather accomplishes this via the riffs themselves. The drumming is excellent throughout, being varied and complimentary, but suffering slightly from a snare that is too low in the mix.
Fimbulvinter kicks off with a sample of icy winds blowing across the tundra before the howl of a lonely wolf introduces one of the best opening riffs I have ever heard — it just perfectly sets the stage for the album to come by having a real "first step on the journey of a thousand miles" kind of feel to it. It isn't long for you hear some blistering tremolo riffing and furious blasting and you know you are in for a real treat. The songs are all epic affairs with only "Where Brave Warriors Shall Meet" running under 10 minutes, and each track displays a remarkable diversity of music and a strong narrative that keeps you firmly entranced. The songwriting really is a step forward from Kroda's previous albums with each track settling really naturally into its length, and nothing feels forced as each song is exactly as long as it needs to be. It really is an extension of their previous songs — the formula isn't really any different, but there is a maturity of songwriting that wasn't present to the same level previously. The folky passages are still here and still frequent, but they are more separated from the metal sections and rarely does a sopilka or drymba accompany the riffing (although the drymba can be heard "boing"ing along under the surface every now and then), but the way Kroda shift between these passages is just brilliant as there are no stop/start style transitions; the segues are perfectly organic. Several guitar solos have made their way into the music on this album, adding yet another dynamic to their sound. The outgoing solo for "...Where Brave Warriors Shall Meet Again" fades out beautifully, but it is the absolutely stunning solos at the end of "Funeral of the Sun", swapping in with sopilka melodies, and building toward a huge climax that is perhaps the highlight of the album. The final track is a cover of Branikald's "A Stormride". I have never heard the original so can't comment on how different Kroda's interpretation is, but they have managed to make it feel as though it belongs on Fimbulvinter, and it provides a suitably sweeping close to the disc.
Once again the CD booklet is a work of art with Viterzgir's photography of the Carpathians setting the tone of the album with its snow covered landscapes and grey skies. The booklet truly does enhance the listening experience and I think the album would feel slightly less whole without it. All lyrics are in Ukrainian (I guess), but English translations are supplied and are pretty good (how does one get "With Paroxysmal Breath to Inhale" from Ukrainian to English?).
Fimbulvinter is a true progression for Kroda, the musicianship, the composition, and the narrative nature of the album mesh together to deliver something really special - Kroda have really taken it to the next level with this disc as everything just clicks into place. Absolutely essential for fans of Folk/Pagan metal as an all-around excellent package where the sum of the parts go together to make a greater whole.
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