Swedish Vintersorg, essentially Andreas Hedlund and Matthias Marklund, is a symphonic banquet for the ears, with fresh and growling vocal lines soaring over luscious guitar riffs, lavish keyboard passages and even the occasional flute, violin and harpsichord adding a baroque feel to the whole feast. “Orkan” (hurricane), the eighth release from the band, follows on from the release of “Jordpuls” (earth), which featured a solid set of compositions paving the way for this opus.
The production on “Orkan” is raw when it needs to be, yet sterile where appropriate, which is a refreshing combination of techniques to complement the dense arrangements. What initially catches the attention on first listening to this release is the plethora of insanely memorable riffs and vocal lines. This is particularly apparent on the title track of the album ‘Orkan’ which is virtually raging with rhythm, vitality and joy. The second track, ‘Ur Stjarnstoft Ar Vi Komna’ bounces along astride grandiose guitar riffs and regal keyboard lines that are at once uplifting, enlightening and intriguing. ‘Polarnatten’ (polar night) opens with an almost fairytale like refrain before the mysticism is buffeted to one side by searing black metal. The opening track ‘Istid’ (ice age) could be argued to be one of the stronger tracks on this release, however, as clean, melodic vocals skirt around brutal growls, over a maelstrom of guitar chords and blast beat percussion. All the elements that make up the tapestry of “Orkan” are on show here.
This release undoubtedly showcases the vast array of compositional skills available within Vintersorg, sometimes several times within the same passage. Scenarios of ferocious Viking battle sit alongside tales of love and romanticism, but these disparate scenes come together to form a cohesive journey that would never disappoint the enthusiastic listener. This imagery may polarise the reader, but it would be reductionist to allow this. There are some evocative guitar solos which appear wholly in keeping with the moral fibre of the album, as can be heard on tracks such as ‘Istid’ and ‘Polarnatten’, which help stage the talent and restraint of those involved. Each song on “Orkan” is satisfyingly lengthy enough to allow the tempo and stylistic turns room to evolve without appearing claustrophobic. Some have described this style of metal as folk metal, characterised by this apparently seamless blend of catchy phrases and unforgettable vocal lines. With the themes of earth and air already considered, expect further releases from Vintersorg based upon the elements.
Indeed the cover art to this release, featuring a squally sea, evokes imagery of Viking mysticism and legend, which, to those willing to embrace the culture, is a perfect illustration from which to indulge the senses. An indication as to the quality of this release can be gleaned from the feeling of recognition to be had from the first listen through. A contrasting collection of textures within a single composition can occasionally appear fragmented and ugly. Not so with “Orkan”. The story is told with fluidity and grace and should be used as a template for progressive ideology, despite this reviewer not speaking a word of Swedish. Any description of progressive metal, then, should contain at least one reference to the work of Hedlund, Marklund and Vintersorg.