It was June 2006 and I was helping a friend move into a downtown apartment. It was hot and we were scrambling up and down two flights of stairs as fast as possible before a cop could ticket us for taking up half-a-lane of traffic with our truck. When it was finally over,1 we grabbed lunch and went to my favorite record store down the street.2 This place had the strangest collection of albums I’d ever seen and a surprisingly large metal section for a town full of hippies and reggae fans. The album I selected that day was something I had heard many things about. From a band that rose from the ashes of Windir. It was no other than Vreid‘s Pitch Black Brigade.3 A chaotic way to end a chaotic day. And I’ve been in love with this Norwegian four-piece ever since. While there have been musical ups-and-downs over the last few years, your ever-optimistic Grier is hoping for something fantastic from this year’s Lifehunger.
Since that hot June day, I’ve traveled from Pitch Black Brigade to I Krig and along Milorg and V. Each, in their own time and own way, represent Vreid. Each album drips with war/WWII themes, yet each possesses the chronological stepping stones to the band’s peak. And, arguably, V is the summit of that ascension. After V, a new era began for the band. One that completely crushed my spirits. When I bought 2013’s Welcome Farewell, I had to take the “long route” home to finish it. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. There’re few redeeming qualities when you compare it to V or Milorg. That said, it only got worse with 2015’s Sólverv. As Madam X stated three years ago, it feels like the band is running out of ideas. But, it’s 2018 now. Optimism, right?
The problem I have with Sólverv is its need to be overly-heavy4 and overly-melodic for no other reason than to suck you in. The latter is the exact issue I have with Lifehunger‘s opener “Flowers & Blood.” I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful, acoustic instrumental but, goddamn, is it out of place. And, with its Western-y vibes, it sounds more like Ghoultown than it does Vreid. After it runs its course, it transitions into more-familiar territory with the Milorg-like “One Hundred Years.” But, even with a better mix in Dingsøyr’s voice—compared to Sólverv—there’s little life in this track. After a calming interlude that includes some fitting clean vox, “One Hundred Years” begins an acoustic guitar climb that goes… nowhere.
“Sokrates Must Die” and “Black Rites in the Black Nights” also suffer a similar fate to “One Hundred Years.” The former has the same quick-paced riffage as “One Hundred Years” but it lacks direction. “Black Rites in the Black Nights,” on the other hand, features classic Dissection structure that molds well to Vreid‘s classic vocals and drums. But it also doesn’t go anywhere of interest. Then, there’s “Hello Darkness:” the most out-of-place track on the record. It combines the Western-y character of the opener with Sólstafir-like croonings to produce an eerie, overdriven piece that could be on a Spaghetti Western reboot.5
Although I came out of the gates spewing negativity for Lifehunger, there’re a few tracks that carry their weight. These are “Heimatt,” “Lifehunger,” and “The Dead White.” The title track follows where “One Hundred Years” left off, but with a shit load more depth. With Satyricon-like vox and mid-song guitar leads, that feel as good as any the band has written in recent years, “Lifehunger” keeps me glued the whole time—finally climaxing to great heights of ecstasy with forty seconds to spare. Following behind it is “The Dead White;” with chugging licks that fall away to more acoustic dabblings. This time, though, the song uses Dissection-esque guitars to make its exit memorable. While closer “Heimatt” stands out almost as much as the opener, its overture-like character keeps things interesting. It incorporates all the cleans, all the effects, and all the building riffs and melodies that made up the record. The only thing it doesn’t incorporate is vocals.
If it sounds like I’m disappointed with Lifehunger, you’re right. While it has a more-concise runtime, compared to Welcome Farewell and Sólverv, most of the songs are weak. It’s wildly disjointed and numbers like “Flowers & Blood” and “Hello Darkness”—and to some extent, “Heimatt”—are out of place. To the extent that they almost feel forced into the disc. There’s definitely a desired theme across the album, but it’s not smooth from one track to the next. There’re a couple of great moments here but, for the most part, Lifehunger is a tough pill to swallow.6
- No ticket. We just got cussed at a lot. A whole lot. ↩
- Which no longer exists. RIP Gopher Sounds… ↩
- It cost seventeen-fucking-dollars-and-ninety-nine cents on CD. Fuck all you sonabitches that don’t know what that’s like. ↩
- All the best thrashy moments of Milorg forced into uncomfortable places. ↩
- Oh yeah! There’s also a cowbell! ↩
- Though, that artwork pretty much kicks all ass. ↩