Einherjer – “Dragons of the North XX” (Indie Records)
Originally released in 1996, this astounding debut from Norwegian kings Einherjer would soon set the standard in what was to become the Viking Metal genre. Drawing from its heritage of Nordic myths and history, this was richly reflected in the melodies and rhythms of the music as well as the poetic lyrics that lived up to the band’s name, itself drawn from Odin’s immortal army! Now, some 20 years on and with the founding core of Einherjer still intact in Gerhard Storesund on drums / synths and Frode Glesnes on guitar / vocals, this cult classic has been re-recorded in its entirety – and mightily impressive it is too! Although reduced to a trio, you wouldn’t know that from the amazing ‘redux’ mix that has not just created a massive atmospheric sound, but also added crystal clarity to the instruments, not only allowing them to be heard individually, but together forging an incredibly powerful and emotionally charged sound – excellent! Compared to the 1996 original, the overall sound is more balanced with less prominent drums and the keyboards playing a far greater role which really works as I said on creating that special atmosphere to warrior hymns like the thundering ‘Conquerer’, the epic ‘Storms of the Elder’ complete with its beautiful ambient interlude filled by Glesnes’s mandolin like guitar work and the heaving, folkish ‘Slaget ved Hafrsfjord’, based on the Battle at Hafrsfjord, where King Harald I gained the day to become the sole ruler of Norway! There’s not a huge difference between Glesnes’s vocals and original singer Rune Bjelland although I’d say the former is less blackish even if both go for barbarous drawls but again, its perfectly suited to the quality material. A big plus for me was hearing the Rickenbacker sound of Aksel Herløe, upfront in the mix and generously plucked while being confident enough to duel with the guitars – very impressive indeed! All in all a stupendous package befitting its cult legacy, worthy of praise from elders like myself as well as the younger generations.