HELHEIM – Rignir
The past eight years or so have seen Norway’s renowned Viking metallers Helheim release some of their finest and most absorbing records ever, and yours truly is very happy to report that this brand-new offering of theirs is way up there with the very best of them. What sets "Rignir" slightly apart from its predecessors is its lyrical content, which revolves around the weather of Bergen as well as the moods of the various seasons up here and how they connect to our emotions. Fret not, because there is obviously still a close link to Norse history and the Edda, so it is not as if these talented dudes have abandoned or changed anything as such, but I do think that it is brilliant that this new output of theirs offers a different perspective on themes such as alienation, suffering, and loss while simultaneously drawing inspiration from Old Norse alliterative verses. Intrigued? You should be. "Rignir" is arguably the most dynamic album of theirs to date and covers quite a bit of musical territory in the sense that the progressive tendencies are as prominent as ever while the band’s bombastic and at times punishing take on pagan metal remains intact, but at the same time there is a mellowness and something akin to an unsettling calm to parts of the compositions that infuse the record with a sense of deep-seated longing (and even a few pop-sensibilities if you would believe that!).
The song material’s inherent melancholy is so goddamn prevalent that one can almost reach out and touch it, and I just love how the songs slide rather effortlessly between raging and calm as well as complex and somewhat straightforward. You can tell that a lot of time and effort went into crafting these pieces and the awe-inspiring thing about this marvelous opus is that it sounds so incredibly organic and that everything flows together so seamlessly. The use of clean vocals suits the tunes nicely and provide contrast to the aggressive outbursts, but there is room for improvement in this area as certain passages are slightly lackluster and never quite hit the mark with respect to the vocals. Apart from that, we are all good and each member of the ensemble turns in a passionate performance. If you listen closely to the bass lines, some of them are relatively monotonous and hypnotic in places and bring to mind some of the old Joy Division albums, which is pretty cool, me thinks. The guitar work is also inspired and the leads are truly impressive this time around.
"Rignir" is rich on atmosphere and depth, and it is as heartfelt and touching as it is musically fearless and (emotionally) intense. It is not superior to its three predecessors, but it is nevertheless an utterly rewarding and moving listen, and one can only applaud the fact that Helheim can still roll glorious stuff such as this one right out of their sleeves after all these cursed years. Things are usually the other way around with most bands out there, but then Helheim were never like those outfits and never will be. Patience and focus are essential if you wish to appreciate the beauty and vibe of "Rignir", but trust me, it is well worth devoting some time to this uncompromising piece of work as it will undoubtedly stay with you for a long time to come. Tracks such as "Stormviðri" and "Ísuð" are riveting works of art and easily among the best ones ever composed by the band. Make sure you catch these skilled fuckers live on tour somewhere.