Vintersorg - NaturbålVintersorg‘s Naturbål had the misfortune (for long-time readers) of being released while I was off getting straight-married1. In the run up to this major life event, I managed to squeeze in quite a few listens, however, as I was given a promo copy of it quite early from the band2. Long-story-short: Naturbål is a continuation of these Skelleftebors’ string of successful releases that started with Jordpuls in 2011, improved with Orkan in 2012 and that continues in full force now in 2014.

With the exception of “Ur aska och sot,” which hasn’t sat well with me since about the 4th time through it, Naturbål is chock full of what Vintersorg does best: melodic black metal work with extraordinary and catchy choruses. With his characteristic voice, Vintersorg knocks out anthem after anthem, with a few pauses for blast beats and trem-picking. These echoes of black metal—of which there are more and more on the last couple records—are always offset by melody and beauty. Listen, for example, to the bridge and chorus in “En blixt från klar himmel,” which is guaranteed to stick to your gray matter like some sort of melodic brain-tick infecting you with its melody for weeks afterward.

Vintersorg ca. 2014 by Örjan FredrikssonNaturbål‘s weakness, though, is the mastering and production. While there is a new bassist involved on this recording by the name of Simon Lundström, he’s nearly impossible to hear without busting out your best equipment. And the record is just really loud, falling in at an aggressively crunched DR5, as Vintersorg‘s material has been for a long, long time. This flattens out the fantastic versatility of the songwriting and removes the dynamics from some of the instrumentation. Reviewers have been knocking Vintersorg‘s most modern music for being “busy,” and I think it actually has to do with this problem. Everything loud also means it’s hard to fill the space an instrument or melody is supposed to “fill.” While there’s no audible peaking, this record would be a lot more dynamic if the band were to back off the crunch in the recording and mastering process. (And let’s be frank, ‘no audible peaking’ is a pretty low bar for a mastering job.)

In spite of the mastering job, though, Vintersorg‘s writing is anything but flat, and the performances of guest vocalists Helena Sofia Lidman (performing on her first record, apparently) and Frida Eurenius (ex-Lapis Lazuli) add to a record that has Vintersorg‘s most black metal feel since the “early days.” Mattias Marklund’s guitar work is especially vibrant on Naturbål—see particularly the solo that closes out “Elddraken,” which really made me sit up and take notice. And the combination of the effective writing, performances, and hooky melodies makes for a powerful record, regardless of weaknesses.

Watching a band late in its career continue to knock out great, consistent records is one of the most gratifying things I can think of in metal. Vintersorg‘s continued development and movement back towards their “source” as a premiere, unique band in the arena of melodic black metal has been fantastic. Naturbål hits all the highlights and has its own unique feel; it’ll set the soul of long time fans aflame, and could even pave the way for new ones.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: .WAV
Label: Napalm Records
Release Dates: G/A/S: 27.06.2014 | EU & UK: 30.06.2014 | SE: 2014.07.02 | US: 07.06.2014

Show 2 footnotes

  1. You may now call me “heteronormative metal guy”
  2. Full disclosure, I shill for Vintersorg in my free time because they’re one of my favorite bands
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  • NeverBlack

    Great album and great review! Vintersorg are a truly special band.

    By the way, about the footnotes: Does it mean that now we have an Angry Metal Married Guy and/or an Angry Metal Wife (and congratulations, of course!)? =D

    • I have an Angry Metal Wife now. She was, once upon a time, Angry Metal Girlfriend. Apparently we’ve upgraded. ;)

      And thanks!

      • gh00st

        Congrats, man! :)

      • Pedro Morini Mietto

        Hold on, is she aware of this monicker you gave her?? Is she cool with that?? Just to be sure, these kind of things could get you in trouble…..anyways, congrats!!!

        • She thinks it’s funny. To be honest it’s a terrible description, since she’s not metal even a little bit.

          • MetalMartin

            Try Anathema’s Weather System with her, it’s like metal and not at the same time; I guess she’ll like it. One drop at a time… Congrats by the way!!

          • Feytalist

            Nah, man, you start with Nightwish. Always start with Nightwish! Works every time.

      • Tanuki

        congrats!. I wooed my wife with Strapping Young Lad’s Alien. She’s not metal at all either, but pretended it was cool. that’s wife material.

      • eloli

        Congratulations, getting married’s probably the best thing that I ever did.
        I’ve been married for 10 years (and 16 as a couple) now and even if my sweetheart’s never been into metal, she’s been incredibly supportive about my obsesive audio collecting habit, and has even learned to love for Pantera, Slayer and Maiden eventually.

      • Our Fortress Is Burning

        Congratulations! Although this is somewhat belated, I just found out now. I’m “angry” for you nonetheless. ;)

  • RyanM1985

    I just bought The Focusing Blur last night. I will buy the three releases mentioned above because well, for the reasons you have stated.

    Congratulations Angry Metal Couple :)

  • André Snyde Lopes

    There it is! Glad you came back to review this one, AMG. You seem to have a “no nonsense, all info” approach in this review (which might be a side-effect of having no free time to write). That said, I can’t wait to listen to this album!

    Shame about the production. Imagine Swanö producing this (also remastering their previous records). It would probably be the best thing ever.

    PS: Congrats on your marriage. Wish you the best!

  • Refined-Iron Cranium

    I really wish Vintersorg’s albums weren’t mastered so loud, it takes away from the experience somewhat (I can forgive Visions From the Spiral Generator, though.) Otherwise, I will definitely listen to this for a long time, can never get enough of Vintersorg!

    P.S. Congratulations on your marriage!

  • Feytalist

    I was wondering where this album’s review was :D

    Mr. V is a master at his trade, no doubt. I love this album like I love the previous two. Shame about the mastering, but well, I’ll take what I can get.

    By the way. Has anyone had a listen to the one released song of his *other* side project Gravisphere? It’s pretty good also.

    Oh, and congrats on the Angry Metal Marriage.

  • This is an excellent album and right up their with Vintersorg’s last two releases. The record unearth’s itself the more it is consumed and listened to. Ur oska oct sot, Elddraken and Rymdens brinnande öar are the highlights for me.

    One of my complaints is that Marklund doesn’t let loose enough because when he does it brings the songs to another level. Great review as usual AMG and congratulations on your wedding!

  • LOVE Vintersorg.

    Perhaps the next album will get a Dan Swanö production…one could hope. To be fair, this mastering doesn’t sound any better or worse than 99.9% of other modern heavy albums.

    • Ernesto Aimar

      Swanö working with Vintersorg….that’s something that I’d really love to hear.

  • Wow, congratulations on your Angry Metal Union!

    I’m about halfway through writing my review for this album and I’m digging it even more than Orkan and Jordpuls.

    • Ernesto Aimar

      Me too! Best Vinter Album since “Visions…”. Is it just me or the black metal croaks and riffage sounds bigger and stronger than ever???

      BTW, congrats to the newly wed!

      • I was thinking the same thing. His snarling here sounds more pissed off than anything I’ve ever heard from him.

  • First of all, congratulations and best wishes to you and your lovely spouse. I’m curious, was there any metal at all on the reception? :P

    I loved last year Cronian’s (these same guys under different moniker) and it also was an average of DR5, I think these would be an example of what the Metal-fi guys call apologetic production? Is there a more dynamic vinyl release planned? I’m liking what I’m hearing on Spotify right now.

  • Congrats AMG! All the best!

  • I gave it a few spins already. Enjoying it! Good point about the “busy” kind of feeling most likely being a mastering issue, I think you are right.

    Congrats on the ball and chain.

  • Zadion

    Aw, you published it before I got the chance to nag at you for a couple weeks straight like I did with Orkan…

    Great review and I definitely agree – except with the bit about “Ur aska och sot,” that is, as I find it to be the best on the album and one of the highlights of his career.

    Congratulations on the wedding!

  • Chorchs

    I was wondering why you didn’t review that album… In my first hearing I was a bit dissapointed, maybe the production, but arriving to the end I like it more, and in posterior hearings grew more and more and now I’m absolutely loving it, I give it half point more… (yes, a bit fanboy)

    I’m one of those people, not so sure of giving congratulations for a marriage, ha ha, but all the way, best wishes…

    and off topic: I’m excited, just having bought my first Vintersorg’s vinyl, “Till Fjälls”

    (P.S.: Sorry for my awful english, don’t doubt to correct me.)

  • brutal_sushi

    YES! Orkan kicked me in the ass! Also congratulations! Welcome to the BRUTAL life of Marriage!

  • Dammit this production sounds like shit. MUD.

    • Realkman666

      Breaks my heart how loaded their albums are.

  • w1lliamturner

    Congrats and I’m glad it wasn’t just me thinking the production sounded off when I started the album a couple seconds ago.

  • sickbroski

    Sounds like utter shite.