Nidhoeggr – Arise

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Reviewed: November 2021
Released: 2021, Art Gate Records
Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewer: Kieron Hayes

I do appreciate a bit of variety in my music, including the mixing and matching of typical disparate elements into something fresh. Even if it’s just differing styles of a single genre, it can be refreshing to hear things shifted up a bit. But this needs to be done with care so as not to risk a disjointed end product, and Nidhoeggr’s Arise seems to illustrate this point, to its detriment.

As their biography notes:

Nidhoeggr manages to combine harsh Death Metal with catchy keyboard melodies, always experimenting with different sounds. Through their multi-faceted sound, the band creates a gloomy atmosphere, but can also whip up the mood with trollish party songs.

Sounds good, but these pieces definitely come together better in some songs than in others. In songs like “Good of Lies”, “The Journey” and “Onwards” we see the core of the issue here: these elements just don’t gel together that well sometimes. Instrumentally, “The Journey” owes a lot to Korpiklaani’s bouncy, folk party sound, but it tops all of this with rough, death metal vocals, and these two sides just don’t fit well together. This isn’t to say folk metal can’t benefit from harsher aspects, including vocals, as bands like Ensiferum or Equilibrium have shown, but there’s something jarring about it here. Instead of crafting a fitting contrast of light and dark, it feels more like harsh vocals slapped on top of a Korpiklaani jig. Elsewhere, as in “Good of Lies” and “Onwards”, we get the addition of other instrumental effects (piano, horns, accordion, harpsichord), but they just serve to further the feeling that some of these songs can’t decide if they want to be heavy or jolly.

There are brighter spots in the album however, most often when the aggression picks up or there’s more of a focused commitment to one particular approach. This focus seems to come into play most around the middle of the album: “Mighty Willow” amps up the ferocity noticeably, “Desolation” makes good use of a steady, menacing rumble to conjure the atmosphere of something dangerous coming through the woods, and “Rise and Fall” manages to evoke some Ensiferum-esque Viking raid thrills.

Outside of this oasis of sharp-toothed folk fun in the middle of the record, things can feel a bit dulled and blunted. The instrumentation isn’t bad by any means, but it’s not always as engaging as it should be, as good at sweeping you off on epic adventures. Something in songs like “Twilight Zone” and “Arise” feels like it’s reaching for grandeur, but lacking a sense of urgency that it needs to make it.

Arise has a lot of ambition, and I certainly give it credit for that, but it feels like their success may lie in trying to be master of one thing rather than jack of them all. The band seem to be at their best when they stray towards Finntroll’s sort of tongue-in-cheek territory, blending dark and light together in a way that fits with the grim fairy tales of old. Nidhoeggr don’t quite manage that fully, but there are moments here that move in that direction, and those are among the album’s best.


Video:


Band line-up:

Janos Thomann – Vocals
Nino Moser – Lead guitar, clean vocals
Janick Rüttimann – Rhythm guitar
Thibault Schmidt – Bass guitar
Patrick Scheidegger – Drums
Lorenz Joss – Keyboard, clean vocals

Tracklisting:

1.) Departure
2.) The Journey
3.) Onwards
4.) Twilight Zone
5.) Scorched Earth
6.) Rise and Fall
7.) Mighty Willow
8.) Desolation
9.) Good of Lies
10.) Winter’s Night
11.) Arise

Websites:

www.nidhoeggr.ch
www.facebook.com/NidhoeggrMetal
twitter.com/NidhoeggrMetal
www.instagram.com/nidhoeggrmetal/

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