With little or no fanfare, the trolls of Viking/doom/folk/black metal known as Ereb Altor storm back from the frozen wastes with their hybrid sound and more tales from Norse mythology. Though they began life as an epic-sized, Viking metal act with a strong doom influence (check out By Honour because it’s badass!), they added more and more black metal over time, culminating with 2012s Gastrike opus. As before, they worship the sound and mood of Bathory‘s Hammerheart opus (and to a lesser extent Twilight of the Gods) while also incorporating early Darkthrone influences and doom stylings similar to While Heaven Wept. According to the band, Fire Meets Ice represents a fully realized merger of their old and new sounds and the material does feature a greater return to their original Viking style. The result is not far from Gastrike, but the attention grabbing clean singing and chanting that made that album click are more present and interwoven into the songs. That makes Fire Meets Ice a compelling and interesting album full of shifting dynamics and moods as the band tries to find that sweet spot between genres and craft their own sound in the process.
The opening title track reaffirms the rich creamy love these Swedes have for the Hammerheart opus as piano and acoustic guitars give way to heroic chanting over big, thunderous riffs that roll like waves onto the shore. The mix of clean chants and blackened croaks is done to perfection and the melodic underpinnings remind strongly of Falkenbach and SIG:AR:TYR. I especially love the doomy, mournful guitar work that team with the dramatic ohhhh-ohhhh-ohhhhs that pepper the song. “The Chosen Ones” harkens back to their debut album with straight-up Viking metal set firmly in the epic mode and you can’t help but imagine a Viking funeral pyre (or wedding pyre since they used those damn things for every occasion). The clean vocals are powerful and emotional and while things eventually lapse into blast-beaty blackness, they keep going back to the clean singing and the effect is impressive and addicting.
They keep flipping between Viking and Black metal on tracks like “Nifelheim” (which features some sweet old school Amorphis and Cemetary riffs amid pure Hammerheart love) and “MyRavens” and it works great. Elsewhere, “Sacrifice” adopts a grinding, blackened doom style while Helheimsfard” opts for a blasting, churning black assault with doomy overtones. Things get extra interesting on “The Deceiver Shall Repent” which goes for a folksy, pseudo-power metal sound that reminds a lot of Falconer. The vocals take on a different slant and really shine and as odd as it sounds amid the heavier stuff, it’s a great song and shows a different side to the band. Things finish strongly with “Our Legacy” which is somber, melancholy doom in the same vein as While Heaven Wept.
Of the bunch, only “Post Ragnarök” left me unimpressed despite the mix of old Darkthrone and The Return-era Bathory the song spews forth. As far as other complaints, I suppose I get so enamored with the clean vocals, I get a bit anxious for them to appear in every song, and when they take too long to show up, I get antsy. Another minor issue is the band’s tendency to draw out some of the songs longer than necessary. Some of the tunes here could lose a minute or so and be none the worse for it (most notably, “Sacrifice”).
As on Gastrike, I was duly impressed by the vocal work of Mats and Ragnar. They expertly mix and match the various croaks, shouts, singing and chanting so as to maximize the impact and it works exceptionally well. Likewise, their guitar-work is impressive as it runs across numerous genres and manages to convey anger, grief, depression and glorious exaltation. Nothing they do is overly technical and many of the main riffs are quite simple, but they play with feeling and to convey feeling. This album packs in a lot of instrumentation and much of it is interesting, well-conceived and well executed by this power trio.
Fire Meets Ice is a concept album that covers the birth and death of the universe according to Norse mythology. While I didn’t receive a lyric sheet with the promo and often cannot understand what Mats and Ragnar are saying, the mood of the songs convey all the listener needs to know about how things are going in Odin-Land and it’s obvious when Loki starts stirring up a cosmic shit storm of mischief.
Slightly better and more consistent than Gastrike, Fire Meets Ice is another interesting cross-section of metal genres by Ereb Altor. These guys deserve way more press and buzz than they ever seem to get and I strongly encourage you all to check them out. They do their own thing and have their own sound and it’s a Valhalla ready one at that! Let’s all drink to Thor, then drink some more! Okay, light the Review Conclusion Pyre.