Vesperia – Voyage from Vinland (self-released, 08 January 2011)
Ladies and gentlemen and whoever else might be out there reading this:
This coming Saturday — the 20th of October — blackened folk/pagan metal band Vesperia are headlining a show in the band’s hometown of Oshawa, Ontario (city motto = “Prepare to be amazed.” I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.) Also appearing will be Battlesoul, Will of the Ancients, and Unbowed, and for more details on the event you can check out this page.
Anyway, in celebration of this occasion, Vesperia wanted to do something special for their fans. Giving away downloads of their new demo EP from earlier this year (The Swordsman) wouldn’t work though, because they’ve already done that (see here for a full write-up about that release) — so instead they’ve decided to give away their previous album for free!
Voyage from Vinland was actually the first (and only) full-length album released by Bolero (in January of last year), prior to that band changing its name to Vesperia. But the whole thing — all eleven tracks, forty-five minutes of it — has been re-released digitally under their new name on their Bandcamp page, and for this week ONLY you can download all of it absolutely FREE! This is only supposed to last until Saturday’s show, though, so ACT FAST!!
For those who enjoyed the variety of sounds on this year’s demo EP, you’ll be pleased to know that this earlier full-length spans pretty much the same spectrum, but even more so — simply due to the fact that it does so over a longer period of time.
For example, the vocals range from the brutal death growls of “Send of the War Summons” to the ghastly, atmospheric black metal shrieks of “O Hail to the Northlander”; of course, there are also plenty of unison viking-style chants and shouts too (“Risen Victorious” for example), as well as the occasional epic, melodic clean singing.
Mostly, you’ll find some combination of these styles, as in “When the Legends Die” which uses both black metal vocals as well as some epic cleans, while also throwing in some bits of accordion and bouncy folkdance-sounding music, a style the band blends nicely with the heavier metallic sounds of “Throne of Storms.”
Also providing contrast with the darker and heavier songs, there are a few instrumental interlude tracks, which include orchestral elements, strings, piano, flutes, harps, and even choir sounds, to set up the mood at various points throughout the album.
One definite highlight is the song “A Silence Prolonging” — which you may remember as “A Silence Prolonging (In Longing)” from The Swordsman. This song has a much fuller arrangement than the EP version, with several layers of acoustics, strings, and piano. The deep clean vocals here are much stronger than the more tentative and understated style used on the EP. It’s interesting to compare the two recordings, because the stripped-down, plaintive nature of the demo track definitely suits the song very well, as do the softer vocal stylings, but at the same time, the album version has a better sound quality overall (I didn’t really notice it before doing a side-by-side, but it seems like the Swordsman tracks may not have benefitted from the same mastering treatment as the Vinland songs). Also, unlike the EP recording which employs multiple vocal parts throughout practically the whole song, the one on the album features a single singer, but then adds occasional minor-key harmonies on certain words at the end of phrases, which has a great, chilling effect.
Highlights also include “Pints Held High” — which sounds like it could be the title of a Korpiklaani song, and indeed it could resemble one of that band’s more fast-paced, celebratory tunes. However, this song illustrates one of the fundamental differences between pure folk metal and folk/pagan metal: the vicious-sounding vocals here, which are snarled, seem to be proclaiming a celebration of victory, and of vanquishing one’s foes. So, the atmosphere is one of gravity rather than levity.
Closing track “Sworn Under the Winter’s Majesty / Onward we March” employs a similar feeling, with military marching drum sounds incorporated into the black metal motif. In the end, the song fades away into crashing waves, bringing the album full-circle to the same sounds that introduced the first track — perhaps suggesting the idea that we all come from nothing and eventually return to nothing.
Listen to Voyage from Vinland here, and grab your free download (while supplies last!)…