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Heralding the Fireblade
March 2006
Released: 2005, Napalm Records
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Madman

HERALDING THE FIREBLADE is a complete enigma to me. How does an artist sit on such great material like this for more than 10 years? I mean, it’s happened before with Bathory’s BLOOD ON ICE or Manilla Road’s MARK OF THE BEAST (formerly titled DREAMS OF ESCHATON in its bootlegged form over 20 years ago) but it amazes me that an artist can sit on material this good for so long, not giving the public the opportunity to hear material that is up their with their best works.

About 17 years ago Vratyas Vakyas put the Falkenbach name in motion with a demo in 1989. It would take another 6 years before anything else was recorded under the Falkenbach name, demos that were not well distributed (...SKINN AF SVERI SOL VALTIVA... reportedly having only 9 copies given out) but were able to get the band noticed by the (in)famous No Colours Records who released Falkenbach’s debut album in 1996. Albums followed in 1998 and 2003 on Napalm records before this new, or shall we say, somewhat new opus, HERALDING THE FIREBLADE was released in late 2005. The story behind this album was that when Falkenbach’s debut album was originally going to be recorded, things went awry with the recording process and Vratyas cancelled the studio time and the album as a whole. Only 3 songs from the original album have seen the light of day since then and HERALDING THE FIREBLADE marks the official recording and release of this old material with some slight reworking from Vratyas.

Those who enjoy Viking metal, especially in the Bathory vein, will find HERALDING THE FIREBLADE (as well as the rest of the Falkenbach catalogue) a very rewarding listen. Certainly Vratyas isn’t completely aping the style Quorthon brought to metal but there are certainly strong similarities even if Vratyas style can be a bit more up tempo as well as a little slicker in his vocals, song structures and definitely, production.

The album opens epically and almost hypnotically with “Heathen Foray” which has strong, hymn-like vocals thrown atop simple open chords using other instruments to add background melody (I can hear what sound like string sections, though more than likely well executed keyboards). The song is very enchanting in its way of working the main melody through your head and beating you down with it through the song, to the point that you’re humming along whether you know the words or not. “Of Forests Unknown” kicks the tempo up drastically from “Heathen Foray” and has a decidedly more blackened style to it. Quite a bit of double bass is thrown about with fast, melodic riffing accompanies. Somehow the main riff/melody is very odd sounding in the metal context, there’s something about it that is very unique.

“Havamal” kicks off acoustic with Vratyas enchanting clean vocals yet again. The epic melody is unavoidable and when the song moves into electric, things are just that much more powerful. One might be surprised how well a chorus that only consists of “Waaa oohhhh ohhhh” can be so powerful and make the listener really step back for a second. “Heralder” follows the more plodding Viking metal sound and does it exceptionally well, with pounding drums, a simple guitar line, blackened vocals, and keyboards emulating a choir in the background. The song is an exercise in taking what seems so simple and creating something so moving and captivating.

Falkenbach are firmly in my top spot as far as Viking metal goes. There’s no denying Vratyas ability as a songwriter and musician as he has yet to disappoint me. Maybe if I had heard this sooner, it would have shown up rather high in my best of 2005 list?
Track Listing

1. Heathen Foray
2. Of Forests Unknown
3. Havamal
4. Roman Land
5. Heralder
6. Laeknishendr
7. Walkiesjar
8. Skirnir


Vratyas Vakyas - Vocals, Guitars, Bass
Boltthorn - Drums

Next review: » Falkenbach - Ok Nefna Tysvar Ty
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