|Review: Windir - Arntor|
Label: Head Not Found
Year released: 1999
Genre: Viking Metal
Review online: March 4, 2009
Reviewed by: Brett Buckle
In 1998 Windir dropped Arntor upon a largely unsuspecting metal scene and upped the ante on epic Black Viking Metal with its soaring keys, super melodic folksy riffs and melodies and huge narrative feel. The band's debut album Sóknardalr had given us a taste of what they were capable of, but with Arntor Windir established themselves as a force to be reckoned with by delivering a sophomore effort that would have set most bands on a downward spiral, unable to top or even repeat its excellence.
Starting slowly with a multi-layered keyboard with an accordion-like sound, "Byrjing" has a fantastic melody that gives a powerful feeling of warriors marching out to battle. Its "first steps on the path to war" feel is that of Viking warriors rather than regimented armies and is more organic feeling than militaristic. "Arntor, Ein Windir" follows with Windir's trademark Black Metal blasting and proud Viking folk and seems to go backwards in the narrative acting as an introduction to a protagonist with an uproarious fest hall feeling as the town or village throws its final farewells before its champions must leave to fight. The track ends with a melancholic folk section before reaching a crescendo of blackened folk that infuses you with that huge Viking pride that all Windir's works are known for. The album continues from here going from strength to strength and setting the feel that would define Windir's sound through their following meisterworks. The ethereal guitar melodies of "Svartesmeden Og Lundamyrstrollet" blend flawlessly with the keyboards to produce an uplifting and airy feel before being brought smoothly back to earth by some heavy riffing and combination of harsh and clear vocals, and the unforgettable and super catchy folksy riffs and vocals of "Kampen" are huge album highlights, but for an abject lesson on Viking style songwriting you must hear the ten minute story-set-to-music that is "Saknet".
The production on Arntor is a little thinner than either 1184 or Likferd, with the guitars suffering the most. That's not to say the production is substandard by any measure as each instrument is perfectly audible, it's just that the guitars lack that bite heard in the latter works. Once again Valfar delivers superbly on the vocal front, his harsh screeching defining the very essence of Viking Metal, taking Quorthorn's Blood,Fire,Death-era vocal perfection and blending it with the larger than life clean tones of guest vocalist Steinarson.
Arntor really set the formula for epic Viking Metal that Windir would follow with their latter albums, improving upon and surpassing this unique beginning. The songwriting here is a little less polished with the odd awkward transition between sections and the songs are a little sparser with Valfar relying a little too much on the keyboards for my liking. It is also a more accessible album as well as it is not as "black" as 1184 or especially Likferd, and it opens itself to an even wider audience than those albums which is perhaps why it is my least favourite of their "big three" albums. However, the fact that I'm "only" giving this a 4.5 does not diminish its status as a classic album of essential folksy Viking Heavy Metal that should be a staple of every metal fans CD collection.
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|Review: 1184 (reviewed by Brett Buckle)|
Review: Likferd (reviewed by Brett Buckle)
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