Reviewed: March, 2021
Released: February, 26, 2021 Napalm Records
Reviewer: The Elitist Metalhead
Einherjer, according to Nordic mythology, are the glorious dead. All those who died bravely in battle and were brought to Valhalla by the Valkyries to fight and kill each other by day, then to feast and drink by night. Formed in 1993 in Haugesund, Norway, Einherjer are also one of the early pioneers of the Viking/Folk metal movement that was in full force by the mid nineties. Never really getting the praise they deserve, Einherjer called it quits in 2004 but reformed in 2008. The first two reunion albums were met with lukewarm responses but in 2016 they made a bold move, they decided to re-record their debut, DRAGONS OF THE NORTH, with their current line up; which included on lead guitar Ole Sønstabø. Most times, re-recordings like this fall flat but this time it worked and it seemed to breathe new life into the band.
NORRØN SPOR came in 2018 and it took me completely by surprise. This time out the band seemed focused and the songwriting was spot on. So now 2021 brings us their newest release NORTH STAR. Did they continue the progression started on the previous album? Quick answer? They sure did. But just to say that this is another great album and leave it at that does not do this album any justice. This is a refreshed band that is also returning to form because this has that classic Einherjer sound but with the added elements of their modern output. In fact, NORTH STAR remind me of a cross between BLOT and the re-recorded DRAGONS OF THE NORTH. The album opener is the perfect example of that Einherjer viking metal sound but incorporating some of the sickest solos in metal right now. “Stars” comes right behind it. This starts off with some keys then goes into that classic Einherjer mid paced tempo with some killer riffs and a killer chorus. The vocals are a cross between the usual black metal rasp found in most viking metal but with a bit more melody and some cleans. Vocalist Frode Glesnes has a unique sound to his voice and has handled all vocals since BLOT. His cleans remind me of Quorthon at times.
One of the things that always impressed me about Einherjer is that they do not rely on speed but instead have a more traditional metal approach to the music with that hint of folk influences. “Ascension” is the perfect example of how they leverage the riffs and the hooks instead of relying on pure speed and heaviness. The chorus on this one is catchy, the riffs are infectious and the solo is godly. It’s the longest song on the album and even though it doesn’t go into epic territory but instead the song has enough layers to make sure it is not overlong. “Listen to the Graves” on the other hand does not have as long a run time but feels more epic in it’s nature. The song is a bit more complex with some time changes and some great riffage. The chorus is catchy as always and has that signature Einherjer Viking chant/shout “LISTEN TO THE GRAVES….TO THE SONGS UNSUNG!” And then comes a soaring solo by Sønstabø to add the icing to the cake.
Being pioneers in a subgenre of metal is a heavy burden to carry but Einherjer carry it well. Most bands re-record their early albums out of desperation but when Einherjer did it, it actually helped breathe new life into this band. This is the second album released since that re-recording that has been some of the best material in the band’s career. Einherjer have always been one of my favorite bands of this genre and thankfully they still have a lot to offer. I’m already looking forward to this follow up….no pressure guys!