Espoused by personally defined Asatru-centered spirituality and similarly retrofitting twenty years of traditional doom metal timbre into a “new ancient” way of being, this debut full-length from Örebro, Sweden-based musician Mikael Monks‘ latest project Heathen Rites, ‘Heritage‘, manifests as outside-the-box thinking applied to otherwise non-paradoxical muse. In harmony with surroundings and ‘self’ yet still an old soul jacketed with new gear, the ritual affirmation available within creates an aura of oaken doom-folk surrealist awe; An album aglow with beguiling “post-retro” present tense abundance as its doomed and oft-droning post-metallic heavy atmo-rock mélange proves itself easy to read, difficult to sum, and held afloat by the slow-ooze of a decidedly modern yet wisened tendency.

Known best as the founding rhythm guitarist and (later) vocalist, guitarist and visionary for Swedish underground traditional doom metal/heavy rock retro-hybrid Burning Saviours since the early 2000’s, it’d be easy to see Monks‘ work on this record as a sort of quasi follow-up to his previous project’s apex-of-endtyme, ‘Death‘ (2018). Though I don’t suppose it’d been forged as a ‘next life’ beyond his best known project circa 2018/2019 since the personal signature of the artist is arguably the point of these songs, which explore a handful of concrete ideas and some looser experimentation. It’d be fair to say that ‘Heritage’ is not intended as a direct antithesis to the past but instead represents a heartily taken chance to do something “new” using all of the skills and character forged over an artistic half-life. From the horror-fuzzed, floating n’ drowning eerie of opener “Eternal Sleep” to the sentimentally whistled melodic uplift of “Midnight Sun” it soon becomes clear that we shouldn’t expect to catch whiffs of Creedence, Pentagram or Tull from the fellowe in this case, rather an exploration outside of heavy rock/metal tunnel vision towards atmospheric rock climes and epic doom metal striding. This is where ‘Heritage’ thrives as we reach the heavy heart of it all on “Autumn”, perhaps the most distinct example of classic doom metal pulse applied to what is ambiguously epic post-doom and heavy metal balladeering at once.

Much as I appreciate the sort of breakthrough take that ‘Heritage’ manages on Side A, the tone of the album loses its consistent droning march beyond “Autumn”, soon tipping heaviest into the post-metal movements of second single “Gleipner” which I’d describe as a sort of funeral doom-folk. It still works as we begin to shift from the well-rounded immersive post-doom of the first handful of ~6 minute pieces toward a slightly more normative ‘epic Scandinavian doom’ wheelhouse from there on with another quasi-ballad “Here Comes the Night” and the Grand Magus-esque sword-swingin’ n’ jogging of “The Sons of the North” — A last minute reminder of this theme of Nordic folklore, nature and history which hadn’t especially obviate ’til taking a look at the lyrics. Finally we’re left with an outro “Kulning” which is literally just that, a herders call to their livestock; This might work when bent into a foreshadowing melody on a Fejd album here and there but seems awkwardly placed on the end of ‘Heritage’ as a wistful surprise on an otherwise somber album, there is surely some meaningful context but it only serves to shatter the mood that Heathen Rites so successfully builds along the rest of the half hour.

Though the intended concept or meaning attached to ‘Heritage’ is both obvious and under-explained in tandem, the full listen on offer from Heathen Rites is nonetheless a memorable debut event for its crossover between heavy rock timelines, a point of subversion for the gentrified retro/modern doom paradigm it skates around in loops throughout. Sonorous, earthly, expressive, and gilded with surreal modern tonality it’d be fair to say that ‘Heritage’ is a successful vibe unto its own fingerprint-pocked self. All things considered, the running order does begin to suggest the core idea had either run out of steam or hadn’t been fully realized as the last third of the record rolled by, nonetheless the first impression is effectively made and the spin worth repeating. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (75/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Svart Records
RELEASE DATE:August 27th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Store [Finland]
GENRE(S):Post-Doom Metal,
Atmospheric Doom/Funeral Folk

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