Written By: Gothmog.
Before I even started listening to metal, I was fascinated with mythology from all over the world. Looking back, it doesn’t surprise me that I got so into metal, since Norwegian and Finnish mythology were always the kinds I enjoyed most. And when it came to exploring Viking, folk, and black metal, the pagan themes were practically calling my name. (So were the Lord of the Rings aspects, but that’s another story). And thus, “Vanir” was recognizable to me instantly, knowing it was likely a Scandinavian band. So I decided to take my chances and let my love for Scandinavian metal by my guide.
Vanir are on album number three with The Glorious Dead and things have definitely changed a bit: there’s only guttural growls now as opposed to the lighter, less harsh vocals heard on their Onwards Into Battle offering. The guitars are more savage, and… bagpipes? Yeah, that’s a thing for Vanir now and they have a female bagpipe player. Their name comes from a group of gods in Norse mythology, so it’s obvious you’re gonna be hearing about vikings and battles and for a for a Scandinavian act, this is just what you’d expect, even if the album art looks like something from a Warcraft game cover.
It’s right down to business with Vanir, and that means meat and potatoes Viking folk: thick guitars, thundering drums and growls to go with it. It’s very straight forward musically, but you can’t complain as everyone is well-versed in their respective instruments. Guitarists Philip Kaabar and Lasse Guldbæk Jensen are a tight duo who lock up with drummer Daniel ‘Luske’ Kronskov, who is just as energetic and tight as the stringsmen. Vocalist Martin Holmsgaard Håkan sits in the middle of everything, spewing standard battle chants, simple, but with enough melody to stick in your head. Overall, their semi-polished, but heavy sound leaves a good impression. Except for the bagpipes.
Remember I mentioned those? They’re definitely a major part of the album, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. In fact, they quickly become quite distressing. On the band’s previous albums, bagpipes were present, yet flutes were as well. Point being, it was never just about the bagpipes and there were breaks from them so they didn’t feel overdone. Those days are over now and The Glorious Dead is 49 minutes worth of them droning and moaning away like a perpetually deflating and obnoxiously loud party balloon.
On the track “I valkyriernes skød,” the band brings in some deeper Viking metal influences and drops the tempo down. What would be a dramatic and heavy song with a nice change of pace from the speedier numbers is derailed by, you guessed it, the bagpipes. Here they sound both discomforting and silly as they gleefully wreck the overall mood. A flute or any other wind instrument would have been more appropriate in its place.
It’s funny, though, because the next track “Overlord” is one of the fastest on the album and manages to make the bagpipes work. It’s a vicious tune with a lot of great guitar work, and the bagpipes following the guitar melodies in the chorus, even effectively harmonizing at times. Out of the nine songs on the album, maybe two make such positive use of the bags. That Vanir is so hell-bent on shoehorning them into every nook and cranny ends up hamstringing the entire album, leaving the listener annoyed and distracted.
Vanir aren’t a bad band at all, it’s just extremely disappointing to hear solid metal songs weighed down by such a crippling flaw in the music. A different instrument choice would have totally changed The Glorious Dead around, and it’s sad to see what could have been a strong album, weighed down by of one poor decision [And a comical album cover. – Steel Druhm].