Till Fjälls Del II by VintersorgRelease date: June 30, 2017
Label: Napalm Records
Vintersorg‘s seminal 1998 release Till Fjälls is a pure classic of frost-bitten folk-tinged black metal. It trod a natural path to many of Vintersorg’s future albums and opened gates of inspiration to many of folk metal’s elite. Mainman Andreas Hedlund is a demigod among these circles and over the years his presence has been a driving force in various bands, most notably the almighty Borknagar.
After a planned four album run, three full-lengths based around the elements earth (Jordpuls), air (Orkan) and fire (Naturbål) have been released, so it was a bit of a curveball to hear Vintersorg would be forgoing a forth for now and instead revealed he would revisit those ice-capped mountains for a direct sequel to Till Fjälls. It is a brave and inspired move. Joined by Simon Lundström on bass and Mattias Marklund on guitars, Hedlund has two commendable musicians for the journey, with himself providing a bit of everything from guitar to programmed drums and of course his distinctive vocals again being one of the album highlights.
Del II‘s opening number ‘Jökelväktaren’ wastes no time laying foundations for this release, smacking you with ice blasting beats as cruel as a looming hail storm (yes, expect plenty of ‘cool’ similies). Heavy industrial bass and sweeping guitars add to an ambience of power and nostalgia. The tune gallops by with punchy vigour into the second half which displays more folky and majestic tones. As always Hedlund’s vocals are glorious, being the vibrant northern lights in a dark sky, shifting from ‘clean’ sung vocals to eloquently enunciated ‘grim’ vocals. ‘Lavin’ begins beautifully with an acoustic intro against gentle atmospheres of crying winds, moving eventually into an avalanche of changing riffs and blast beat interludes with a guitar hook that’ll bring to mind the discordant key of Black Hole Generator. The peacefully reflective beauty of the intro makes cameo appearences throughout.
‘Fjällets Mäktiga Mur’ opens with the tinkling of ivory before leaping into one of the albums catchiest tunes. Heavy Maiden-esque bass plays against sweeping epic soundscapes of melodic guitars and stomp-along drums. A gorgeous chorus of clean vocal hooks and cries of “Till Fjälls” whisk you back to the splendour of the original, leaving you blissfully stranded atop a mountain peak in the bitter air. Look no further than the songs official video for all the imagery you need and just close your eyes and see it play out frame by frame. Utterly magnificent. ‘Tusenåriga Stråk’ flaunts moments of beauty with its strummed acoustics against melodic ambience and interspursed with grim black metal vocals and blasts. Its contrast evokes the sublime beauty and stark harshness of the force of power that is nature, and to where Vintersorg made his name deep in the roots of the earth. I could go on all day about each track and its importance to the album but there’s still a second disc to get to.
Disc two (an EP named Tillbaka Till Källorna) concerns itself with unreleased tracks from all the way back before Vintersorg’s inception, when Vintersorg was Vargatron. For various reasons these tracks didn’t make it onto the Hedniskhjärtad EP. Reimagined, these four tracks ease nicely into the album creating a seemless passage from past to present, with chill winds breathing new life into once forgotten songs. ‘Tillbaka Till Källorna’ (Back to the Sources) is a passionate musical ode to the past and an appropriate way to start a celebration of time. ‘Köldens Borg’ is a charging piece of catchy folk joyousness cut with harsh bursts of glacial blackened metal whilst the more assaulting ‘Portalen’ hits harder with icier storm-blasting urgency. Disc two closes with the sweet and simple gem ‘Svart Måne’ and its gently plucked acoustic melody backed by group harmonies. These four tracks wouldn’t be out of place on Disc One but separating them to a second disc seems perfectly fitting, and believe me they are beyond being just ‘bonus’ tracks.
With new album Till Fjälls Del II some may wrongfully accuse Mr Sorg of looking back to the past… but where else should one look for inspiration? Instead of creating a carbon copy of his epic debut the band have forged another classic to stand the test of time, proving this to be a magnificent and heartfelt return to that point where Vargatron and Vintersorg intersected. Some may have cried out when hearing there would not be a part four of the elemental series, at least not yet, but whether or not the new album is seen as a standalone or straight-up continuation of the brilliant original, fans will love and respect it as a stunning work of beauty and storytelling. Perhaps years from now fans will look back at Till Fjälls Del II as the band’s masterpiece.