Those who remember my review of Vreid‘s rambling Welcome Farewell will remember that they arose from the tragic end of Windir. Vreid‘s sound bears some similarities to Windir‘s warring black metal roots, but it also goes beyond that. They’ve honed a black ‘n roll sound that’s loaded with repetitively catchy riffs and melodies that bludgeon in their familiarity and overuse. They can be likened to many, many other bands, but they’re also recognizably Vreid. Déjà vu and vagueness are an odd mix, but Vreid have it down to a fine art. Had Welcome Farewell never happened, had Sólverv followed on from I Krieg, Milorg and V, you probably couldn’t have held me back from listening to it with excitement. Unfortunately, Sólverv hits at a time when the band seems to be running out of interesting musical ideas on. With so much top-class metal out there, it’s really tough to get excited about listening to something that most likely won’t move beyond “average.” All that’s left for me to do, other than tackling the imposing pile of trve laundry that’s taking over my house, is to take Sólverv by the horns and hope for the best.
After the first play-through, a few things stand out and unfortunately it’s not the music. It’s very clear that Vreid tried to recapture some of the magic of their past work, but unfortunately there’s an aggression and energy distinctly lacking from Sólverv. Vreid indicate that the album is themed around the bloody heritage of Hváll (bassist), the fathomless valleys of Sogndal (Norway) and his ancestors that fought and died to preserve their land – the overriding emotions are sadness and nostalgia, though you’re constantly hoping for destruction, battle and glorious victory. The next thing you notice is that the tracks are considerably longer than on any of Vreid‘s past albums. Where in the past they included a long track here or there, now they run on excessively, with half the material exceeding seven minutes. Part of what made V so listenable was the brevity and catchiness of the songs. That card isn’t played here.
I bet you’re wondering if repeat listens help, right? I went on to play Sólverv almost exclusively for three weeks (yes, that’s why this review is so damn late). I couldn’t and wouldn’t give up on it. Knowing how personal the album was to the band I wanted to experience it fully. Sadly, repeat listens reinforced my initial perceptions. When you take the time to sit with each track, all you’re left with are small moments that stand out and satisfy. If you listen hard, “Haust” may remind you of “Arche” and goes on to showcase a band capable of delivering each note with perfect precision and at times their melodies haunt a little like those of Carach Angren. “S lverv” has a little punchiness that reminds me of “Wolverine Bastards,” “Geitaskadl” captures the familiarity of Taake around the mid-section, and “tti sitt Fjedl” and “N r Byane Brenn” have an element of sadness about them that I’d normally associate with Eudaimony.
The weirdly mismatched guitar melodies and drum-work in “tti sitt Fjedl” and the duel between the dirty guitar riff and the darkened, Black Swan-like ballet performance that opens up “N r Byane Brenn” give you an inkling that Vreid are trying desperately to keep your attention and it works. For a little while at least. By the time you get to “Storm fr Vest” and “Fridom med daudens klang” it feels as though you’ve gotten all you’re going to get from Sólverv.
The production is modern and similar to what the band used on their previous albums. Dynamically Sólverv drives down the very middle of the road – it’s neither crushingly loud nor loaded with dynamics. I had to dig deep to find things to keep me listening to Sólverv. Hváll and his band of merry men know their respective instruments and they deliver each riff, solo and blast beat with absolute textbook precision. Unfortunately, though Sture Dingsøyr’s croaks and rasps still resemble those of old Bathory, they do little to save Vreid from just sounding like every other black metal band churning out cookie cutter album after cookie cutter album each year. This saps the emotional receptivity of Sólverv and the album never ends up feeling as moving as it should.