Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Hermóðr- Vinter (2014)

Cassette edition by Schattenkult Produktionen
Hermóðr is not your average one man black metal band from the snow drenched fjords of Sweden whose songs are about winter, nature and the hardships endured by the ancestors of days past. Well, actually, muli-instrumentalist Rafn, the engine behind this project, is kind of exactly that, but I'll be damned if you classify Hermóðr as merely just average.

Vinter was originally released on January 3rd via ways of cassette through a wonderful but small German black metal label named Schattenkult Produktionen. Limited to 100 copies and given a very small promotional push, it is no wonder why this, the first Hermóðr full length, has gone all but unnoticed in the rankings of 2014's strong black metal output thus far. Those of us who were lucky enough to stumble upon some of his earlier work, like 2013's 17 miniute long epic of an EP titled Thrudvang, knew exactly what immense levels of quality were to await us on board this anticipated debut full length offering. 

2013's Thrudvang

The raw emotion directly involved when creating a good, great, atmospheric black metal record cannot be an easy skill to conjure up for the artist but when achieved, it separates the bad from the good and the good from the great. Right from the opening notes of 2014's 'Vinter' it is made very clear that this is going to be a harsh and abrasive album from start to finish. Through each of its 6 (7 on the Wolfspell Records CD version) lengthy tracks, the frozen beast lurking within these recordings has its heart set on grabbing the inner reaches of your weaknesses with its gnarled teeth while constantly performing countless vicious attempts at severing any remaining fragile threads of hope that exist within the cracks and frail breath of your battered being. Feelings of sorrow and dread are continuously combated with moments of lustful purity, natural beauty and a general sense of becoming that ultimately makes the listener quite apparent of just that exact before mentioned and all so important characteristic... Pure, raw, concentrated... emotion. This is the key to great atmospheric black metal. Tortured screams of a highly distorted nature can surely display an emotion of sorts on their own, so can driving guitars and pounding drums... but thats the easy part. Pair this formula with the delicate balance of ghastly and almost otherworldly clean vocals which lay hidden deep within reverberated echoed walls of brash guitar leads and then morph them with an eerie but well structured labyrinth of thought inducing passages that will send chills down the back of your neck in fear and can ultimately put a freeze on the soul. Even on this absolutely scorching day of brutal New Jersey heat and humidity this album calls to the inner winter in man. This is the difficult part you see, this is what makes Vinter a stand out album amongst hordes of imposters.

CD Jewel Case edition by Wolfspell Records 2014, limited to 500 copies

Issue Reviewed:
Wolfspell Records, Jewel Case Edition, Spell003, #93/500

Packaging/Presentation (4/10)
Weak. a borrowed painting, some snow covered mountain tops and trees. The design sports the painfully average but yet expected "black metal' font and the overall layout is quite bland. One of the paintings on the inner liner notes would have made for a much better choice in cover art, in my humble but albeit useless opinion.  

Material/Production (8/10)
Dissonant, heartfelt and honest atmospheric black metal that speaks to the frozen breath of mankind past and present. The one man band aspect will always gain extra respect from me and I find it truly amazing that in only being active since 2012, Hermóðr has already amounted a catalog of high quality releases that most full black metal acts can only dream of. Aside from this outstanding full length in 2014,  Rafn has also released a split EP with Leben and another 3 song EP titled Förlorad. Talk about dedication to his craft. I can only hope for more. 

Replay Potential (6/10)
A lower score here isn't necessarily a bad thing to me. The harsh reality is that this, and other albums like this, really succeed in sucking the life/will out of you. It would be sonically impossible to listen to this on repeat honestly. Your mind, soul and ears need time to recuperate and properly absorb the material. Carefully chosen listenings will trigger a thought provoking experience that is sure to evolve with each carefully timed spin. 

Value (7/10)
I'm sure happy with my purchase, I'm a sucker for hand numbered limiteds! And besides that... All other Hermóðr releases are available for FREE on the Bandcamp page. So its only a matter of time before this album is as well. unless you're a nut like me and have a need to own the physical copy, it honestly gets no better than that.

Overall (8/10)
This is sure to be one of my favorite albums of the year. Download it, buy it, share it, go and like Hermóðr on Facebook. Just be sure to do something about this.

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