Reviewed: January 2004
Released: 2003, Napalm Records
Reviewer: Night of the Realm
A masterpiece! I, for one, am happy to see that Vratyas Vakyas has finally recovered from his automobile accident and has brought another Falkenbach album to light. It has been five years since the last Falkenbach offering, but OK NEFNA TYSVAR TY proves to be well worth the wait (Ok, I confess…I’ve only known about Falkenbach for perhaps two years, tops, but it is still worth the wait. Heh)
Falkenbach is one of the bands, along with mid-period Bathory and early Enslaved, that to me epitomizes everything which Viking metal stands for. The music is as epic as it can get, stimulating every sense of the listener whist evoking images of mist-enshrouded Nordic landscapes, Skalds singing their tales amidst the acrid curling smoke of the fire, robust warriors gathered about the great hall, sweet mead trickling down the throat, and a strong, spiritual feeling of a deep, proud culture. Whereas other bands claiming to play Viking metal, yet only focusing on raging battle music, Vratyas Vakyas, now with a full band behind his project, delivers a more complete picture of the Norse.
On one hand, OK NEFNA TYSVAR TY is a more laid-back album than its two predecessors. The guitars are not as heavy in tone and are softened by an increased use of acoustic guitar in nearly every track on the album. Additionally, gone are most of the growled vocals, which have been replaced with clean vocals that are almost chanted and trance-like. The synths also play a larger role on this album, although Vratyas is a master of the synths, incorporating them not so much into the background as they are so seamlessly woven into the entire song itself that they do not intrude at all.
While I mentioned that OK NEFNA TYSVAR TY is not as heavy in tone, it is a ponderous album in theme, mood and atmosphere. The additional musicians in the band somehow give a much fuller and richer sound to each song. This album is not one of drinking songs, but rather slow, doomy hymns in dark, forboding atmospheres to the Nordic culture. Also, the production on the album is as refined as anyone could want. Every note is recorded and mixed to fully integrate into a composition that is larger than the sum of its parts, yet there is not a single moment on the album that sounds too polished or artificial.
Great epic horns open the album to “Vanadis,” the longest song on the album at nearly nine and a half minutes. While the synths may convey a happy melody here, the appearance of the growled vocals emphasize the warrior’s theme of the song. “As long as Winds Will Blow” features a nice acoustic passage that creeps in and out carrying the main theme of the song that is perfectly balances the clean vocals as they rise and fall. A beautiful piece, and one of my favourites on the album. “Aduatuza” is the heaviest song on the album, falling into more of the “typical” Falkenbach sound. “Donar’s Oak” moves along with a catchy chanted rhythm with the strongest Viking feeling. The duet of acoustic and electric guitars that kicks in around 3:07 is the single best juxtaposition of the folk and metal sound on the entire album which is further accentuated by the flute that carries throughout the song. This one is certainly my favourite on the entire album. The last half of the disc is just as good, if not better than the first half. There is a rerecording of “The Ardent Awaited Land” from the first Falkenbach album, as well as the excellent “Homeward Shore.” Closing out the album is the final epic, “Farewell,” the second song on the album to clock in at over 8 minutes in length. As much as I loved Bathory’s NORDLAND albums, I must admit that Mr. Vakyas has displaced Mr. Quorthon as the current king of Viking metal.
While some listeners may find OK NEFNA TYSVAR TY to be an unconventional album, Falkenbach earns full points for a fine tapestry of the Nordic sound. The album’s sound is much fuller than its predecessor’s, and each song is absolutely enthralling.
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