Varde – Fedraminne Review

It’s not another one of Vardan‘s countless releases, nor is it one of Varathron‘s hit-or-miss endeavors – it’s Varde. Of all the V’s of the metal world (and there are many besides: vampires, villainy, vim & vigor, valor, vomit, vogininth, etc.), Varde may be one I am most unfamiliar. But as luck would have it, these lads are devoted to another “v:” Vikings. Well, sort of. Devoted to their native Norway and Norse heritage, these blackened vets decided to come together to celebrate heritage through a new black metal project. The ultimate question, however, is which “v” debut Fedraminne is: a victory of a listen or a valediction before their story began?

Formed in 2017, Varde is a collaboration between vocalist Koll, guitarist Nord of Nordjevel fame, and drummer Valdr of Alsvartr and live musician to Dødheimsgaard. With blackened infamy present in this collective, debut full-length Fedraminne is preceded only by an EP, a single, and a demo. It’s a project that takes cues from their progenitors in second-wave worship in tremolo, blastbeats, plodding passages, and blackened shrieks, while channeling pagan melodies a la Windir or Isengard and the acoustic inclusions of October Falls or Falls of Rauros without diving headlong into the Finntroll folk-overload abyss. Ultimately, although more rife with potential than outright success, Fedraminne is a fine tapestry held together by the thread of its perpetual storytelling and consistently solid uses of its blackened elements.

What sticks out about Varde is their similarity to Ireland’s Primordial; while each act’s interpretations and subjects are very different within a folky blackened style, each track is delivered like a story. As such, lengthier songs “Kystbillede” parts I and II, “Et Gammelnorskt Herresaede,” and “Koll med Bilen del I” channel variety and dynamics in ways that feel purposeful, as each movement feels like a chapter. Varde utilizes clean singing, spoken word, and chants much like the German Horn or Romanian Negură Bunget alongside traditional fierce shrieks, a multifaceted attack carrying each movement of the story that balances melodrama with subtlety and dynamic. Tracks like “Halvdan Svarte” and “Forbundet,” in spite of their generally second-wave adherence and scathing brevity, feel natural and organic, flowing as fierce climaxes to their gentler folky movements. Especially of note is the title track, which is an entirely acoustic affair of stunning harmonies and folky flute, an eye of the pagan storm recalling the acoustic folk offerings of Ulver, Winterfylleth, or October Falls. Ultimately, while folk/pagan black metal has a potential to mask its lack of substance with a glossy folk sugar coating, Varde‘s interpretation of the style feels sufficiently grounded in its aesthetic when novelty wears off, again recalling the earthier interpretations of Primordial or Saor.

As is the case for any new act, in spite of Fedraminne‘s natural flow, some reach exceeds its grasp. “Skuld” is most guilty: while inherently a solid song, its thick and mechanical nearly industrial T.O.M.B. feel is nearly antithetical to the earthy ancient atmosphere in which the majority of the album bathes. Especially making an appearance directly after the stunningly stripped down title track, “Skuld,” in spite of an interesting listen, simply feels like whiplash. Similarly, while the longer tracks flow naturally, the midsection of “Et Gammelnorskt Herresaede” is rife with jarring transitions and awkward passages. Frankly, transitions and composition hiccups are natural qualms present in a young act – if the trajectory remains the same, these Norsemen will almost certainly iron out the wrinkles in time.

Fedraminne is a unique and powerful listen that promises slightly more than it delivers, due to some glaring tonal issues. Varde‘s veteran control is impeccable for an act this young, always adhering to its storytelling ethic and never forsaking ferocity or gentleness in the emphasis on dynamics. It’s a consistently engaging listen, taking listeners on a journey through heritage and offering stunning scenery at every clearing. Executing a black metal and folk sonic palette with subtlety and tasteful variety, Fedraminne is a restrained listen that capitalizes upon the formidability of its members’ skills while, as a new collective, hemorrhaging potential from every orifice. Alliteration truly cannot emphasize this enough: Varde‘s vivacious Fedraminne vibes in the vicinity of veritable victory.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 11 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Nordvis Produktion
Websites: vardeband.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/vardeband
Releases Worldwide: November 28th, 2020

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