Norway’s Vredehammer started off as a solo-project for mainman Per Valla in-between work with his other bands, Elite and Allfader, as a way to branch out of the traditional sound of his country’s musical export of choice. Until most recently, Valla was hired on as a live second guitarist for Abbath‘s band, but quit to concentrate on completing Vredehammer‘s second full-length, Violator. I bring this point up because Violator isn’t dissimilar in style and approach to the lovable crab-walking ex-mainman for Immortal. It’s also important to discuss because Violator gives Abbath a serious run for his money, as it’s a pretty lethal, catchy beast all on its own.
And it wastes no time tearing you a brand-spankin’ new anal orifice once the appropriately-titled “Light the Fucking Sky” launches. Valla doesn’t even bother to adopt the croaks of Abbath, choosing to wisely adopt a raspy death-growl similar to Randy Blythe (Lamb of God). But his tremolo riffs and intricate melodies definitely hold your attention throughout the song’s five-minute duration. It doesn’t hurt that his backing band is putting forth top-notch performances themselves, as drummer Felix and bassist Stone (both of progressive death metallers Canvas Black) lay a perfect bed down for Valla’s catchy riffs and sky-soaring melodies. The hooks are here, gang, and they’re starting to dig.
Speaking of hooks, there’s no shortage of them on Violator. The title track starts off like a blackened tribute to Slayer until the song’s halfway point, building up a nice, slow, atmospheric build-up, complete with a catchy melody that is sure to get fists pumping at shows. “Cyclone” definitely draws from Lamb of God‘s Ashes of the Wake period with some crazy-addictive drumming and pit-inducing riffs, as once Valla growls “Purify… Wash away… Obliterate… Justify…,” you will envision arms flailing, heads windmilling, and horns thrown. But the standout on here has to be “Ursus,” which could best be described as what it would sound like if Abbath had forgone his main band and joined Amon Amarth. Drums thunder slowly, building up drama and suspense, until the main riff comes through, taking you to far-off Viking lands rife with maidens, beer, and Eurovision. I say that last one not as a detriment, as I could see this song being entered on there, and winning victoriously. It’s got that endearing fist-pumping, headbanging, fuck-everything-and-lose-yourself anthemic quality to it that just can’t be met with anything but a smile and thrown horns. It’s that good!
There are a few nitpicks I have with Violator. I do wish the bass had a little bit more of a presence here, as Stone lays a good bottom-end. Also, the drums could be just a little less compressed, as sometimes the cymbals just sound off, though thankfully this is very rare. The guitars however are upfront and powerful, as they should be, given Valla’s incredible riffs and perfectly-placed melodies. It also does have an air of familiarity among the album’s seven tracks, but Valla didn’t set off to reinvent the wheel here. He wanted Violator to give that exhilarating feeling that classic metal albums from the 80s and 90s gave, and he succeeded here triumphantly.
There’s always a gamble when you go off and do something on your own. Vredehammer not only went out and succeeded in releasing such a strong, enjoyable record in Violator, but also, in my eyes at least, beat Abbath at his own game. Catchy, heavy, and memorable.