I think everyone feels a little relief when a year comes to an end. I’m not quite sure why this is—considering that January 1st is just as busy as December 31st—but the phenomenon is real. Be it my real job or my fake one, there’s plenty to get done before the year’s end. Between grading and submitting them, there’s still the task of cataloging this year’s records and preparing them for the Season of Lists. And, when all the year-end obligations are met, a real sense of completion exists. With a sense of closure also comes a small window of peace and quiet, giving most people a chance to ramp back up to everyday life. Hell, the big releases won’t be out for some time. We might as well sit back and relax, right? Well, not if you’re the one slated to review the new Helheim record…

Just over a year ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing Helheim‘s raunijaR; a record that proved Helheim were as close to slowing down as an eighteen-wheeler tearing downhill with no brakes. Interspersed throughout the band’s catalog, you’ll find sequel upon sequel to stories ranging back to 1995. And though raunijaR added its own flavor to these stories—even bringing a close to the Åsgards Fall tetralogy—the band has a lot of work to do if they hope to achieve ultimate closure. Similarly, 2017’s landawarijaR has a home in the Helheim microcosm—succeeding 2011’s Heiðindómr ok mótgangr. It’s these interlocking themes that make Helheim‘s universe so special. But, somehow, each release ties into another without any two albums sounding alike.

When the band’s horn-and-timpani era began with the EP-like raunijaR, I predicted the follow-up would be something to look out for. Even though we all know “assuming” makes a you-know-what out of you and me, I’ll be goddamned if I wasn’t right. raunijaR set out to mix things up, unleashing an absurd amount of horns and the tireless dedication needed to make every track a hit. But, I feel, landawarijaR is the record the band was trying to create. Though the horns are plentiful on landawarijaR, the record’s subtlety is its greatest weapon. Of all the tracks, closer “Enda-dagr” is perhaps the most bombastic. But right when the Celtic Frost-like brass seems like it may overwhelm the song, the Enslaved-like build dispels it with a conclusion bordering on RIITIIR‘s “Forsaken.” “Baklengs mot intet” shares the closer’s need for refined grandiosity. Picking up where opener “Ymr” left off, this charging epic shreds vocal chords and tears through black metal riffage like a rabid wolf. Well, that’s until the song maneuvers into a chorus of duetting cleans. One voice plays off another, building up to the climax, supplying one of the most addictive vocal arrangements on the album.

Yet, this is just one niche of the album. There are melodic atmospheres, slow-paced moods, and clean vocal harmonies like those found in  “Rista blodørn.” There are the aggressive, beautiful, and in-your-face vocal attacks of “Synir af heidindomr,” and also a fuck-ton of impressive solo work on tracks like “Ymr,” “Synir,” and “Ouroboros.” But, no matter how incredible a song like “Synir af heidindomr” may be, “landawarijaR” remains the album’s masterpiece. This powerful cut catches you at the first chord and doesn’t let go for ten whole minutes. It opens with fast-paced, black metal tremolos before dissolving into melodic guitar licks that build and build; resulting in landawarijaR‘s best chorus. And, right when you think it couldn’t get any better, it concludes with the most effective clean guitar licks this side of Sólstafir. It’s one of the band’s greatest moments.

Helheim bring their A-game on landawarijaR. All raunijaR‘s shortcomings are addressed and that old-school spontaneity is in full swing. landawarijaR has peaks and valleys, vengeance and beauty, and a fluidity that makes it feel like one fifty-five minute song. Not to mention all the well-structured vocal arrangements (be it the band or the string of guest vocalists) that make this a superb listen. Though the sound and production continue to blend with modern-day Enslaved, landawarijaR is very much Helheim. With all the layers present on this cake, more than a few spins are necessary to fully absorb landawarijaR. But this album is remarkable and my favorite since 2010’s Åsgards Fall EP.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Dark Essence Records
Websites: helheim.bandcamp.com | helheim.com | facebook.com/helheimnorway
Releases Worldwide: January 20th, 2017

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  • De2013

    Epic review, Epic record. I yearn for the days of old-school spontaneity. We all should do that more often. Will check this out more in depth.

  • Reese Burns

    Great review! Just one little typo in the second paragraph, it’s “its” not “it’s”!

    • Dr. A.N. Grier


      And fucking hell!!!

  • Inclined to pre-order based on the featured track, but I’ll just patiently wait until the whole thing is availlable through their bandcamp :) Thanks for the heads-up of its existence.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      No problem.

  • Grymm

    I’m digging the preview track. Can’t wait to hear more of this.

    Great review!

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Thank you, sir.

    • Francesco Bordoni

      About that track – I know I’m late to the party, BUT: that section that starts at 4:15 in the embedded track sounds to me just like a slower note by note vikingy rendition of “Human Cannonball” by Butthole Surfers. Search it on youtube and go to like 1:30 in, listen to the verse than listen again to that section of “Baklengs mot intet”: it is so much that, especially the first bit! I know it’s probably pure coincidence, yet that is so funny to me.

  • Sounds great. I’ll be adding this to my Bandcamp wishlist. I don’t know what it is about tremolo melodies, but even the simplest ones done right just really hit me.

  • sir_c

    Funny, I put on the video prior to reading the review and instantly I thought: Solstafir. Which is a good thing btw.

    Definitely something to check out, thanks!

  • Frost15

    First great album of the year, diggin this definitely!

  • EnslavedEld73

    Excellent review and song! I’m a huge old school enslaved fan if you couldn’t tell from my screen name, so I’ll be getting this for sure. For some reason I don’t know this band very well. Are there any Helheim fans here that could point me towards a definitive release by them so far?

    • Ugo Poifol

      I mean how did this bland manage to stay under the radar for so many people for so long? I’ve been digging around the BM scene for 10 years now and have never, ever heard of this band.

      Shame on me.

      • I was writing the exact same thing when your comment popped up. I love Enslaved and Solstafir and this is like a perfect 50/50 mix of these bands. Superb!

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          That makes me the third guy in a row to say the same thing. These Helheim guys really need to hire a promo guy or something.

          • EnslavedEld73

            After doing some research, I really like Helheim’s record “Kaoskult.” But of course I haven’t spent enough time with any of them to know for sure. Definitely an interesting band that isn’t afraid to take chances. By the way, I want to recommend a band for anyone reading this, Skogen has been one of my favorite bands for years and they rarely get any attention. I have all their records and would recommend all of them. Mid paced and melodic with sick vocals, also with an Enslaved vibe. Excellent riffs.

          • LR

            Just wanted to thank you for the tip on Skogen. Really digging them so far

          • EnslavedEld73

            I love all of Skogen’s records. I might categorize Eld as the heaviest and Svitjod and I doden as possibly the best in songwriting, but my opinion changes over time. Hopefully AMG will give them a review when a new one comes out.

          • Skogen sounds great. Thanks for that. I’ll soon be purchasing I Doden.

    • LExpoZiod

      I’m relatively new to the band too, so I’m not sure about a definitive release, but “The Journeys and the Experiences of Death” and “Blod og Ild” are my two favourites by them.

  • Treble Yell

    Nice review but 128 kbps promo? Ouch, you poor soul. Embedded track is nice but I can’t help thinking I’d rather listen to (mid-period) Enslaved.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      They always are low quality these days…

  • LExpoZiod

    Great review, Doctor! Discovered these guys a few months ago. They’re very quickly becoming one of my favourite Black Metal bands. So pumped for this release.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      No problem. It’s a great one.

  • Dobbie03

    Yeah I’m looking forward to this one. Been a big fan of these guys for a long time.

  • Akerblogger

    You had me at “Forsaken.” Really, really excellent review Doc. I can’t believe I’ve never listened to this band, they seem to incorporate every aspect of extreme metal that I love so much!

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Yeah, love that song. I know lots of people disliked that album, but I still go back to it. And thank, sir.

  • JL

    Um ok, this is fucking awesome.

  • Eli Valcik

    Wow this was a very well writen review.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Why thank you. Means a lot.

    • Celaeno

      The doc never disappoints.

  • Tofu muncher

    Am getting excited in all the not-necessarily appropriate spots listening to the embedded track. Be still my heart.

    • Dr. A.N. Grier

      Too far…

  • Requiem

    Yikes, that is an ear-bleedingly low bitrate… Even the bandcamp stream sounds sub-par and this is honestly the first time I’ve ever encountered that. Weak.

    A shame too, because even with this BS I can already tell I fucking love this. On the one hand I understand it, on the other hand it’s just fucking annoying. In fact, as a metal noob I never payed attention to the stream bitrate and assumed it was something about the production breaking my ears- so I actually ended up avoiding albums I’d probably have appreciated.

    This is… Properly badass though. Even through the compression I can hear the emotion and epicness behind all this. Highly compelling.

    I’m a sucker for those slightly slower, cymbal-heavy passages especially.

  • Marc Rikmenspoel

    I’m yet another who had never heard of these guys, before reading this. All their recent stuff is great! Thanks for making us aware of Helheim m/

    I got Dayal Patterson’s first book, the big one, when it came out. At the end of 2016, I ordered his four more recent ones, and have been reading them this past week. Conveniently, one chapter in Into the Abyss is an in-depth interview with V’gandr of Helheim, so now I’m familiar with their history. I’ll be getting landawarijaR when it comes out in a few days.

  • Celaeno

    This one hit me. Love it.