Sig:Ar:Tyr – Northen (Hammerheart Records, 15 April 2016)
Hey there, ladies and gentlemen of the internet! I hope you’re having an okay start to your week. Typically I’d be talking about how Mondays are so terrible or whatever, but truthfully, I realize that things could be much worse. Around the middle of last week, I experienced a little bit of a minor medical emergency — hospital visit, a couple days away from work, that sort of thing. Everything around here got really disrupted and it kind of sucked, and I can honestly say I’m actually glad to be back to the normal daily routine, however awful and soul-crushing it may be.
Okay, with all of that out of the way, let’s get to the music! I’ve had to shuffle things around a bit since my schedule got so thrown off over the past several days, but we’ll do what we can to get back on track and get to sharing the albums and other news you people need to hear about. Today let’s take a look at a pair of releases from earlier this month, each by a one-member band (although each had some assistance on these recordings), and each having a Viking connection. It has been a month since the last time we talked about Viking metal — don’t forget that Amon Amarth are still in the middle of their North American tour, with a few weeks left — and it seemed like it might be fun to do it again. One of these albums actually includes a reference to the same source material as the Jomsviking album, and the other deals with ancient Viking settlements in North America …
Amon Amarth – Jomsviking (Metal Blade, 25 March 2016)
Well, it seems like this really turned into a week filled with black metal (or some form or variant of blackened-whatever), didn’t it? That wasn’t on purpose or anything, there just happened to be a few interesting things within that realm that I had wanted to share with you. But today we’ll be turning in a completely different direction: Viking metal!
(That was a little joke to piss off the Internet Metal Nerds, because the subject of whether Viking metal is really a thing, and if it is, how it should be classified, has been discussed endlessly, without ever really reaching a conclusion except for the fact that, as typified by bands like Enslaved and Bathory, it’s [somewhat] widely accepted as a subset of the black metal genre.)
But that’s not what we’re here to talk about at all — today’s topic is more along the lines of melodic/epic/anthemic metal. But I mean, look at that album cover (above)! Listen to the music (there will be previews near the end of the article)! Look at that photo of this band’s incredible stage setup from when I saw them a few years ago (below)! Despite their name (which means “Mount Doom,” a reference to the volcano from the Lord of the Rings books and movies), everything about Amon Amarth just screams “Viking metal”! What else would you call them?
In any case, this bunch of Swedes have a brand new album (their tenth) coming out tomorrow, so we’re going to take a look at that. Also, they’re coming back to the U.S. and Canada in about two weeks, marauding their way across the continent throughout April and May, so be sure to take a peek down at the comment section below where I’ll include the full list of those tour dates…
Solar Halos – Solar Halos (20 January 2014, Devouter Records)
When halo rings the moon or sun, rain’s approaching on the run.
So goes the old saying. The atmospheric phenomenon known as a halo (which could be solar or lunar) involves the refraction of light through ice crystals in the air; as a beam of light strikes the crystalline structure at just the right angle, it is refracted as if passing through a prism, and the rays end up being bent into an arc shape that appears (to the viewer on the ground) to encircle the source of that light (i.e. the sun or moon). Traditionally this has been seen as an omen of approaching bad weather — which makes sense because, as people discovered when they started learning more about the science behind meteorology, the conditions that produce this optical wonder involve a certain amount of moisture being in the air as well as the approach of a warmer front which would generally precipitate (pun intended) impending rainfall. A quick Google image search shows that these halos are beautiful to look at, even though they may be foreshadowing that things could soon turn dark and unpleasant.
There’s another truism that says an email that comes from Devouter Records is a sign of excellent music on its way. Although not nearly as old or well-known, I’ve found this statement to be 100% accurate, dating back to the 2012 LP Trephine by MAKE and through every release since then. Added just a week ago to this impressive list is the debut album by Solar Halos, who just happen to come from the same North Carolina town (Chapel Hill) as their labelmates.
Hey folks — a very Happy (Belated) New Year to all of you! 2013 definitely turned out to be an interesting year for me, with lots of big changes, new projects, new responsibilities, etc., but an unfortunate side-effect of some of that was (as you’ve surely noticed) that the amount of time I’d been spending writing really tapered off as the year went on, to the point where I didn’t post
anything here for the last few months! Well, as you may have seen, I’ve started writing reviews of some new 2014 releases — and as time allows I promise I will also be sharing plenty of older stuff I’ve missed writing about, because believe me there has been a TON worth sharing!
But more on that later. As I started doing last year, I’ve once again put together a collection of various people’s “best of” lists from 2013. Admittedly I sort of got a late start on this (I didn’t even put out the open invitation until after most websites had already finished with publishing all their year-end stuff), but several people have answered the call and contributed some really interesting lists that you’ll want to check out…
This show originally included Supervoid in the line-up, but due to an emergency they had to cancel at the last minute, so some of the members of VEGA agreed to fill in. Here they are performing with their then-guitarist Lee playing drums. (For the record, this band has recently reformed as Dope Lake.)
So I was totally excited all summer long, anticipating the fall Enslaved tour, because I’d heard Ghost was opening. Although their debut album Opus Eponymous was released in 2010, I only became aware of the Swedish Satanic hard rock band earlier this year. But anyway, I grew to like them so much that I didn’t much care WHO else was on the bill; once I found out they were coming to Pittsburgh in September, I was going for sure.
Well, unfortunately, a few weeks before the show was to take place, the band posted an apology on their Facebook page, saying that due to some sort of visa snafu, they wouldn’t be able to make the trip overseas. So needless to say, I was pretty disappointed.
Then, this afternoon a headline caught my eye, and I was surprised to see that there was a new announcement in the Facebook news feed: the band of nameless ghouls are planning to finally come to North America in the beginning of 2012. So then I was all excited once more, for approximately 2.2 seconds, or about the time it took to scan through the list of dates and see they’re not coming anywhere near me. The closest stop on this 13-date tour is just a few hours away, but it’s across the Canadian border, and not having a passport, I’m afraid in this case I would end up with a visa issue of my own.
Anyway, take a peek at the image above and see if perhaps you’re luckier than I, in your proximity to one of the cities listed there.