VANANIDR – Road North

VANANIDR – Road North

The Swedish melodic black/death metal one man construct of Anders Eriksson’s, Vananidr’s 2nd album, inspired by the 90s staples such as Emperor’s "Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk", Dimmu Borgir’s "Enthrone Darkness Triumphant" or Opeth’s "My Arms, Your Hearse" leaves very little to complain about.

Vananidr was actually born as Synodus Horrenda in 2010, out of ruins of a black metal ensemble Hydra. Under a moniker Flame Anders worked on Synodus Horrenda’s debut eponymous album to release it last January but he changed the name to Vananidr in 2018. This means that, at one point, he ran both bands simultaneously, given the fact that "Road North" is Vananidr’s 2nd album.

Fusing early Emperor and Dimmu Borgir with early Opeth and Hypocrisy’s "Abducted", Vananidr opens with a very strong "Cold Dead Skin" but it is when Anders leans toward the likes of Dark Tranquillity, In Mourning or October Tide for gorgeos melodicism while simultaneously pouring concrete of Ulcerate-ian dissonance that he really shines, painting rich tapestries of both classic and contemporary melodic black and death, especially on the two favorites "Drowned In Hells Fire" and "Raining Fire". I would have been entirely satisfied had Anders maintained this "formula" for the entire album but Vananidr is hardly a one trick pony.

Not limited in formulaic constraints, Anders freely experiments with different pace and mood, need I but mention My Dying Bride-ian oppressive doom of "Melancholy March" or the half classic Black Sabbath-ian "Bleak And Desolate" which inspired me to dub Vananidr bleak metal. Of note are also "Plains Of Desolation" with the palpable Melechesh/Mastodon brutalizations alternatively interwoven throughout fantastic melodicism and probably the most accessible supermelodic fest
 "Shadow Of The Past" without compromising the blast beats, the black or the everpresent stench of ancient death, all of which culminating on the masterful "Ancient Powers".

Complains, as I previously mentioned, are very few. When choosing to include instrumentals as separate tracks one should ensure they are necessary and Anders committs two crimes against that law. First, there’s an introduction to the aforementioned "Ancient Powers" which, although thankfully short, brings nothing more to the table we will not hear on the track it introduces, in short, the two should have been one track. Secondly, the entirely keyboard driven psychedelic "Purgatory" should have been cut out, making "Ancient Powers" the closer while avoiding comparisons to the mind-boggling excercise in pompous intrumentalism which were the 3 back-to-back instrumentals on Morbid Angel’s "Heretic" album. None of those mishaps merited more than a 1 point deduction but they did merit as much.

"Road North" is a groundbreaking, excellent work of a multitalented instrumentalist and producer who is Anders "Flame" Eriksson. This album simultaneously paves and shows the way for melodic extreme metal to walk so as to respect the past, honor the present and set high expectations for the future.