Swedish folk black metal band Vintersorg has returned with the third chapter of four in their elemental series, “Naturbål,” released on Napalm Records. After one look at the fiery album cover, I can see why the title translates to “Nature’s Bonfire.” Previous releases in the series include 2012’s “Orkan” (Hurricane) and 2011’s “Jordpuls” (Earth’s Pulse). Overall, this is the band’s ninth full length album.
Formed in 1994, Vintersorg consists of two members: vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist and effects programmer Andreas “Vintersorg” Hedlund; and guitarist Mattias Marklund. Now, I must admit I’m a little late in discovering Vintersorg. I’m a fan of Hedlund‘s vocals from his other fronted band, Borknagar. I’ve even listened to some Vintersorg songs here and there. With the anticipating buzz for this album and the word of mouth support for the previous chapters in the elemental series, I wanted to get in the loop and listen to “Naturbål”
My impression of “Naturbål,” after multiple listens, is that throughout the album there are two styles being played out in almost every song, the beautiful and the savage, but they are so intertwined it works wonderfully.
Right off the bat I have to say Hedlund has some very impressive pipes. It was a vocal treat my ears were listening to. The ease with which he performs the clean vocals and then switches to furious growls, is impressive. No other songs display his talent better than “Ur aska och sot,” with the help of Helena Sofia Lidman, and “Rymdens brinnande öar” with the help of Frida Eurenius.
The album has nonstop, awe-inspiring layers of melody flowing though it, with a fair amount coming from the acoustic guitar. Not to worry, Hedlund and Marklund also place a considerable number of captivating riffs, hooks and rhythm changes from the beginning to the end of the album.
Other than Hedlund‘s growls, the savage portion of the album can be heard in the programmed black metal blast beats, the deep rumble that reverberated throughout my body in “Överallt och ingenstans,” the sounds of thunder bolts crashing the night sky in “En blixt frän klar himmel,” and the ominous organs in “Urdarmäne.” Balancing out the darkness are the sounds of playful flutes in the background on “Lågornas rov,” and the soothing piano and grandiose orchestrations in “Elddraken” and “Urdarmäne.”
Up until now, Hedlund has been the bassist for every Vintersorg release, but for this album that responsibility goes to Simon Lundström. The problem I have after numerous listens is, sadly, I could not find a bass line to save my life. I believe even a dash of bass could have enhanced the overall listening experience.
I almost forgot to mention one detail, and it’s a big one. The whole album is sung in Swedish. Now, I don’t know how to speak Swedish, but I have no problem with that. I thoroughly enjoyed focusing on a language I can’t comprehend, but I can understand why the language barrier would turn some people off.
In the end, “Naturbål” will accommodate fans of black and folk metal. The combination of clean versus aggressive vocals, light instrumental versus dark atmospheric settings, and the overall theme of beauty versus the grotesque, are all wrapped up into one magical album, so much so that I’m going to strap on my headphones to experience what the previous three chapters have to offer while I patiently wait for the series finale.