Helrunar – Vanitas Vanitatvm – Album Review
HELRUNAR «Vanitas Vanitatvm» 91%
Helrunar has always been a band we hold in extremely high esteem here at Hellblazermetal. They are a Black Metal band with pagan elements, hailing from Germany, and their current ranks consist of original members Alsvartr and Skald Draugir. The two handle all instruments on the records (they had a third member on their earlier releases) and get the help of official session members for live performances. Their early offensives (albums «Grátr», «Frostnacht» and «Baldr ok íss») are considered as landmark Pagan Black Metal albums, with very few (if any) flaws. Ice-cold crushing greatness. Those were followed by «Sól» (parts 1 and 2), a double album that showed a darker and more melancholic side, with a distinguished approach to epic melodies and atmospheres. Another majestic, near-perfect affair. The next chapter was «Niederkunfft» which showed another departure for the band, this time incorporating a slight touch of Swedish Death Metal into the overall delivery, while still maintaining the core appeal of this amazing Black Metal entity. Another solid effort. Leaving out split releases, this brings us to the new album «Vanitas Vanitatvm», recently unleashed on Lupus Lounge. This new attack takes all the best elements of past records and brings everything to a new level of grandiosity.
The first track on «Vanitas Vanitatvm» is a short string instrumental intro, setting the table with its sad and dark tone. Second track «SATVRNVS» kicks things off with intensity and from the very first note, we can feel that they mean business, with a huge wall of guitars and bass over blasting drums. Vocalist Skald Draugir (appearing under the moniker «M.D.» on this release, just like on the previous release) offers his trademark low-register vocal approach, which comes across as angry German narration with very clear pronunciation. As always, a huge element of Helrunar’s sound and charm. This first real track has it all, with some acoustic guitars making their way onto it later on. The following two songs «Λωτοφάγοι» and «Blutmond» are of pure delight and probably some of the strongest of the ordeal. Very epic, aggressive and melodic at the same time. I am particularly impressed with the tight and effective picking of some of the rhythm guitar sections. This is something that comes into perfect harmony with the atmospheric, reverb-filled lead guitar track during early moments of the song «Blutmond». The coming together of these two elements really creates a unique grim and menacing atmosphere. Superb work!!
The rest of the album will not let anybody down, from slower or more mid-tempo melodic moments of songs «Da brachen aus böse Blattern, am Menschen und am Vieh» and «Nachzehrer» to the faster and more intense delivery of songs «In Eis und Nacht» and «Als die Welt zur Nacht sich wandt», we see the band covering a lot of ground, excelling on all fronts. One particularly magnificent chapter would have to be the final track (before the outro) called «Νεϰρόπολις», a true monster rollercoaster of over 9 minutes, offering all melodic and epic elements that the band is known for and great at. A very splendid and marvelous way to close an absolutely mesmerizing record.
The CD version comes in a superb digipack format with a very bleak and sombre front cover art (with great use of black, white and gold colours). The inner booklet pages look like old burned documents from ancient times, with texts written in prose, fully capturing the atmosphere of the record. Very well-crafted piece of work.
Although the pagan themes and nuances have been toned down from Helrunar’s more recent offerings, this record will still appeal to fans of older records just as much as the fans of the group’s mid era («Sól» parts 1 and 2). The production is huge and massive, the instrumentation possibly reaches a career high, and the vocal delivery is perfect (with those trademark narrative, spoken parts, always so effective). We simply cannot imagine any fans of Helrunar being disappointed with this release. We highly recommend «Vanitas Vanitatvm» to long-time fans as well as newcomers looking for an entry point to the formation’s discography. Our only hope is that they will one day make it across the open sea and hit our North American shores for a tour!
Buy their cd here at Bandcamp: https://helrunar.bandcamp.com/album/vanitas-vanitatvm