Vreid – Wild North West Review

Every time someone mentions Vreid, they (including myself) have to introduce them as the phoenix from Windir‘s ashes. It usually goes something like this: “Yadda yadda yadda, did you know this is basically Windir without Valfar? Also, did you know Valfar died the most black metal death ever?” Now you’re caught up. Probably the biggest reason Windir comes up all the time is that poor Vreid hasn’t put out anything outstanding since 2011’s V. I still remember purchasing the follow-up album, Welcome Farewell, without sampling a single song and thinking, “What the fuck is this?” When I saw the new Vreid album in our shit promo bin, I let out a sigh of dismay. Here goes nothing.

Well, now that I have you expecting the worst, let’s talk about the rather enjoyable new album, Wild North West. Meh name; cool cover art; good album. Like I Krig and Milorg, this new release is a concept album. Instead of learning some history, the concept here is the ups and downs of life as we wait for death. But, more specifically, bassist Hváll says the inspiration for Wild North West comes from his struggles, knowledge, and experience. One of the coolest parts about the album (not to bring Windir up again) is that some of what you’ll hear Valfar wrote back in 2002. Crazy enough, you’ll also hear him play it. He hasn’t risen from the grave, but it sure as shit feels like it.

The concept in place, Valfar’s spirit among us, Wild North West looks like it has a chance. When the organ of the opener transitions to a classic Vreidian black ‘n’ roll number, I’m already having fun. Not that it’s a particularly amazing song, but the melodic layering of cleans and growls isn’t unpleasant.1 But you don’t know how fun Wild North West is until you hear “Shadows of Aura.” Following the effective and pleasing slow-paced steamroller called “The Morning Red,” “Shadows of Aura” is a black ‘n’ thrash nut buster. After the bass gets the legs stretched and the lactic acid worked out of the muscles, the thrashy lick comes at you like a spiked boot to the nether regions. But Vreid being Vreid, you shouldn’t expect one-dimensionality. The song is more than its headbanging base—there are plenty of melodies and some slick guitar leads. 

In general, Wild North West is out to catch listeners off-guard. Thrash metal one second, classic black metal the next, and rounded out by Ghostcore. And, oddly enough, all three are in a row. After you’ve had your thrash kick, it’s followed up with a sinister number called “Spikes of God.” Of all the tracks on the album, this is by far the blackest. I dare say this is some of the blackest riffage the band has dropped in a while. Nothing outstanding or original, but I didn’t expect it. Then we have the oddity that is “Dazed and Reduced.” There’s no real way to describe this song without mentioning Ghost. The vocals are clean and spacey, and the music is reverberating rock. Not my favorite style, but it’s another pleasant piece and a nifty surprise.

My favorites, though, have to be “The Morning Red” and “Into the Mountains.” The first has the perfect balance of haunting sustains, black metal dissonance, and low, haunting vocals. Its sinister character and headbangable chuggery add to the album’s variety. Honestly, it’s this up-and-down rollercoaster ride of variation that’s the reason I love Vreid‘s Milorg release. While “The Morning Red” is a fairly level-headed piece that picks a pace and sticks with it, “Into the Mountains” is the complex epic. Although it’s only a little over four minutes, and closer, “Shadowland,” is ten, “Into the Mountains” covers far more ground. That’s kinda why I don’t like the closer. “Into the Mountains” combines child choirs2 with angelic cleans and gnarly growls, it’s an atmospheric wonderland. Then, when you think it’s gonna settle in, it stops. In its place, Valfar’s spirit enters your ears with some bizarrely satisfying keys. At first, I thought it was just nostalgia, but this is a great song.

Even with some clever and exciting tracks, I can’t skyrocket the score. The opener is run-of-the-mill Vreid, “Dazed and Reduced” is a love or hate, and the closer is way too long. The latter, in particular, leaves a lot to be desired. When you sit with it, you can hear two decent tracks from it—each one focusing on the best attributes. Instead, it just feels smooshed and forced to work together. That said, this is one of the band’s best outings since V. Not quite up to the level of that album, but it has some fun, pleasing, and headbangable moments on this journey to death.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: vreidsom.bandcamp.com | vreid.no | facebook.com/vreidofficial
Releases Worldwide: April 30th, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Double negative. Suck horse knob.
  2. OMG, shut the fuck up. You’re not special for hating kids.
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