Ereb Altor – Vargtimman Review

Bathory was a touchstone act for multiple metal genres, and though Quorthon has been gone since 2004, his influence still looms large in black and Viking metal. No more proof of this is needed than the 12-year career of Sweden’s Ereb Altor. Their entire output is heavily referential to classic Bathory albums like Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods and the spirit of mighty Quorthon is never far from their writing. Vargtimman is their eighth platter of classic Bathorycore, and very little is left to chance. You get the same tried-and-trve blend of epic Viking and early Black metal with a subtle folk vibe running throughout. It also features a few top-flight examples of their sound and one or two humdingers of olde timey swordcore. This is where the Steel lives.

Things wisely begin with one of Ereb Altor’s best songs in years. “I Have the Sky” is like a distillation of the purest moments from the band’s career and its epic Viking metal even bears a little Amorphis in its armored DNA. Rough, clean vocals soar over churning, burly riffs and Hammerheart beats stoically at the center of it all. It’s an immediate favorite of mine and I want 45 minutes of this stuff. Sadly, that’s not what Vargtimman provides, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing valuable here. “Fenris” effectively blends Viking, folk and black metal for a moody, somber tale, and “Rise of the Destroyer” is like a more blackened Amon Amarth freely expressing their northern rage at the local town hall gathering.

Also hitting that Bathory sweet spot is the majorly epic “Alvablot” which layers chanting cleans and somber vocals over simple riffs and trilling flourishes for a sweeping, epic sound sure to make even the nerdiest among us feel capable of lifting Mjölnir. Unfortunately not every song embiggens the spirit, and cuts like “Den dighra döden” and “Ner i mörkret” are just okay, lacking the hooks and atmosphere of the better tracks. There’s a heavy, rudimentary gravitas with solid blackened croaks and hints of a restrained Behemoth on the former, and a kind of regal grace to the latter, but neither fully hooks me, and both tracks have some bloat too. Closer “Heimdals Horn” is better with some weepy forlorn leads, but it too falls short of the standout cuts, so you end up with a “some killer, some filler” kind of situation which is disappointing. At 42 minutes I would rather they culled the weaker tracks and made this a short but powerfully dose of Viking enthusiasm fit for the Halls of Heroes.

As always, the big hooks come via Mats’ clean bellows and chant-singing. He has an unpolished but powerful delivery that works exceedingly well in the Viking metal arena and when he is on, the songs are elevated to the Rainbow Bridge. On selections like “I Have the Sky” he’s in his full glory, sounding hoarse and somewhat strained like he’s roaring on a battlefield and it hits me right in the Wotan. Mats and Ragnar craft solid, workmanlike riffs to undergird the vocals and though their riffing rarely jumps out at you, come solo time they do create some moving moments of Bathory worship (see “Alvablot” in particular). The chief issue here is consistency, which haunted them on 2019s Järtecken as well. The good is very good, the rest is middling, and feels all the more so because of the standouts.

Bathory will always have a special place in my heart, as will Ereb Altor, but the last few offerings are not quite up to the legendary influence that forged them. I will seize the gems for playlists and cast the rest to the four winds like the bones of my enemies. This is The Way, as the trve must travel light. Hail Quorthon.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Hammerheart Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: January 14th, 2022

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