Árstíðir Lífsins – Heljarkviða – Album Review
Árstíðir Lífsins «Heljarkviða» 95%
Although we here at Hellblazermetal.com have so far focused our album reviews on 2017 releases, our first and foremost goal is to strive on giving quality underground material some deserved exposure. With that in mind, there was absolutely no way we were going to miss out on the opportunity to cover one of our favorite bands, the amazing Árstíðir Lífsins, who released their latest opus «Heljarkviða» at the end of 2016.
Árstíðir Lífsins is a band with members originating from Iceland and Germany. The current lineup consists of Icelandic musician Árni and German musicians Marsél and Stefán. Marsél is actually the voice of the mighty Helrunar, another one of our all-time favorite bands. Árstíðir Lífsins means «The Seasons of Life» in Icelandic language. Right from the first album, we could tell that these guys were the real deal. Their music is of high quality Pagan Black Metal, with lyrical content taking from Skaldic and Eddic poetry (poems written many centuries ago, about the old Norse Worlds and Gods). Their music seems to be highly influenced by Viking-era Bathory, early Enslaved, Kampfar, Primordial, as well as other Black Metal bands from the classic period. All this is however appropriately mixed with Icelandic and Scandinavian folk music, along with elements of classical and choral music. The result has been truly astonishing from their very first hammer strike on this world: the amazing «Jǫtunheima dolgferð» released in 2010. Since then, they have left on their path two other full lengths, «Vápna lækjar eldr» (2012) and «Aldafǫðr ok munka dróttinn» (2014), along with an EP and a split with Helrunar. We strongly suggest that you give all this material a listen, it is extremely rich and glorious, all available through the excellent German label Ván Records. We would also like to bring special attention to the actual CD formats. They consist of spectacular digipaks all following the same art formula with medieval writings inside. Splendid offerings, some of the most beautiful and accomplished packages we have ever seen in CD format!
This brings us to their most recent treasure, the grandiose «Heljarkviða». Although only consisting of two songs, it can be debated as a full length due to the total duration of 43:58. However you approach this, one thing is for sure: these two epic songs deserve the listener’s full attention. They bring us through all kinds of different passages, from amazing smooth folk parts (with acoustic and classical instruments) to harsh cold Black Metal fury. One key aspect and possibly one of the most appealing components of the music resides in the magnificent method of delivering choral arrangements. They are of a very low and menacing register, and truly sound as if the Norse Gods would chant their hanger and sadness upon the nine worlds. Absolutely breathtaking. The spoken word parts are also present (as to be expected, highly reminiscent of Helrunar) and really add to the overall affair, which takes shape of actual storytelling more than ever before. The harsh Black Metal vocals are again very effective, with Marsél’s typical and immediately identifiable raspy voice. The Icelandic language is exquisite and highly appropriate for such an ordeal (but lucky for us, texts are also translated in English into the CD booklet).
The overall concept of these two tracks is about the Norse Kingdom of Helheimr (Hel), a place for those who have died of illness or old age. It is the cold underworld of the fearsome goddess Hel, where the dead dwell until Ragnarok. The music is more epic than ever before, with very big and thick high quality production (although not overly polished as this could have taken away from the overall intend). We can also say that Árstíðir Lífsins are at their most dramatic-sounding on this new release. The effect is extremely touching and tragic. The Black Metal aspects, as on previous offerings, contain well-executed blast beats and nicely put thundering slow and mid-tempo parts. All guitar riffs are spectacular and offer the feeling that each have been meticulously selected. The overall proceedings are very orchestral and beautiful at times, yet cold, harsh and sad. A fully accomplished piece of work, truly mesmerizing and enchanting.
It is extremely rare that Black Metal reaches such a strong level of storytelling. Árstíðir Lífsins are absolute leaders in what they do. They deserve the high praises of all Gods and Mortals. Their overall discography is a fascinating voyage through the old Norse worlds and legends, and while this latest onslaught «Heljarkviða» is no exception, it raises the hammer as high if not higher than ever before. Do not miss out on it, and check them out on Ván Records.