Norway’s Einherjer label their music Old School Viking metal and see themselves as the originators of the genre – being among the first to introduce Nordic mythology to metal. This claim might take many fans of the genre by surprise – as most consider (correctly or otherwise) more fur clad, painted guttural sorts to qualify as Viking metal. One fact no one can dispute is that in almost their 20th year, Einherjer are a certainly battle torn warriors.
“Norrøn” is the first album to come after the band split in 2004. After a 4 year stint in Valhalla drinking mead and picking fights over long wooden tables in the hallowed halls they tired of the gods’ impetuousness, and crashed back to earthly climes with a bump, reuniting in 2008.
Far from a bombastic herald of newly conquered land, the opening track ‘Norrøn Kraft’ takes the form of a plodding war march, plagued by repetitive chugging that could lead to disgruntled fans murmuring that all the band had brought back from the realm of the almighty was this lousy riff. At the seven minute mark the north wind mercifully steps in to blow the irritating thing away but rather than herald in the next track it merely cleanses the palate for a further five minutes that descend into further disjointed oddity. The choir that waft on the breeze sounds more like distant football chanting than a soulful addition, before acoustic strumming replaces their less than stunning effort. After thirteen minutes traversing this boggy battlefield, the appetite is hardly whetted for what is to come.
The following tracks show marginal improvement and further bizarre juxtaposition of styles – the opening riffs of ‘Alu Alu Laukar’ wouldn’t sound amiss on a Blur album. That aside, the song writing and musicianship seems to have undergone a serious downgrade, the structures and melodies are far more simplistic than the bands pre-split work. By the halfway mark eyes were rolling heavenward in hope that the valkyries would swoop down and take pity on the wandering warriors.
A sneaky draught must have finally got under their leather kilts by penultimate track ‘Malmning’ as things pick up speed and briefly hark back to those black metal beginnings with melodies you may find yourself whistling when you aren’t quaffing mead.
Considerably out of puff from the previous track, the closing number returns to the painstakingly steady stride of the opener and showcases a number of vocal styles, from straight up growls to folky singing with a backing choir. After this jolly sing song abruptly comes to a close, the warriors collapse under the weight of their armour and wait for the gods to toss them oxygen, heart tablets and intravenous alcohol so they can power up back to Valhalla.
While the album has a few moments to wave plastic swords around to, for those who hunger for the clash of steel on steel as opposed to the flop of inflatable hammers, a foray into Einherjer’s impressive back catalogue is highly recommended.