For a certain generation of black metal fandom the style which Karmøy, Norway-borne quartet Heimland leads with will resonate with the oaken touch of later second wave Norwegian black metal, not the symphonic theatric side of things so much as the mid-to-late 90’s bastion of pagan-adjacent black metal species who took their own path beyond the well-stretched chill of the early second wave institutions, making sure to stray from the worldwide circus-level camp amidst the first peak of commercialized black metal. In the search of a less homogenized identity and in defiance of the increasingly ironic formation of an actual black metal zeitgeist this type of modus felt impossible to corrupt per its distinctly Norwegian touch, forcing imitators to consider their own folk music heritage else they’d end up sounding exactly like the followers they were. As a Rogaland/Bergen-based group of young fellowes these folks have the fundamental feeling and attitude of this style down to a science bringing some of their own modern-minded flair to build upon aging melodic strictures of the past. As a debut full-length from a band who’re yet hardly known ‘Forfedrenes Taarer‘ could feasibly be viewed as tribute to tradition, a feat which relies upon established ideals to couch its melodic voice, though this is not for the sake of servitude. It’ll end up being an ideal first strike at a point of seeming readiness, enthusiasm and performative capability for the troupe, bringing some notable ambition as they uphold ye auld high standards within their own tuneful, memorable angling about.
Heimland formed as a trio circa 2016 and if one searches around diligently enough you can find rehearsals and a live show recording or two which features their original take on Norwegian styled black metal, wherein you’ll find some manner of clean vocals and a slightly slower pace compared to their approach beyond 2020. Studio versions of their first two 2019 singles are still accessible over on Spotify, these contain the gist the melodic voice of the band as it began to solidify, a state where they were clearly ready for something official. The line-up expanded to a quartet with their first cassette tape ‘Fimbulvinter‘ (2021) and there we strike upon the stoic yet folken rhythmic hand of the band in eased reveal, a wake into sentience and capability which felt like a stride beyond past works. The title track in particular likewise hinted at their love for the ‘heavy metal’ side of Norwegian black metal, the thrashing and chunking movements of early folk, pagan, and vikingr metal making for an riling closer on that otherwise short EP. While this precedence makes good sense when ‘Forfedrenes Taarer’ sits as the end result I’d emphasize just how much they’d done in the years between to ensure this feels like a complete, professional and inspired full-length debut. If you are prone to cut back to nascency and follow a band into the moment this LP is a fresh peak, a first mountain toppled and the foundations for a personalized entity secured.
As brief acoustic intro “Dødens Foerstning” grants us the opening melody before “Ved Dødens Vugge” presents a fleshed and screaming version of it per its initial spark of distortion for a Taake-esque introductory movement as the song soon takes to tree-swaying verses and heavier chunking reprisals. Though we do not get the avant-garde twinge of Hoest singular rhythm guitar work from that point, rather a descending bassline and forlorn tone to round out what might’ve otherwise been a swooning, consonant opening rush to the album. This should read quite naturally as a hand which is steadier, but inventive a la earlier Kampfar. Whereas records like ‘Jormungandr‘ from Helheim were severe, dark and confrontational in their angle we’d be much better off considering the precedence for this type of heavily melodic, mid-paced work per the more palatable folkish readability of Windir in approach of Heimland‘s core ideal, at least as we step into their village proper. The Grendel in the town square offers an unexpected bit of pagan/heavy metal stomp as part of the early trip here as “Lagt I Ruiner” chunks into view, blunt and wild-eyed in its narrative this piece stands out in an odd but important way as an early point of interest which brings some expectation of variety going forward as each song intends to stand alone in statement. I wouldn’t say it is their most original moment nor the most thrilling rhythm guitar statement on the record considering what else they’re capable of but it does contribute to Heimland proving they’re not a single-edged blade.
For my own taste the title track, “Forfedrenes Taarer”, is the piece to glue together the record, a hinge which connects what came before and what comes after with at least some sense so that the full listen doesn’t feel entirely out of focus. Though the dance of these rhythms do not match the familiar whims of “Ved Dødens Vugge” prior they do feel related and this is important as an involved preamble towards the second most key piece on the album “Skugger fra ein svunnen tid“, a fairly sophisticated melodic black metal song which never quite finds its point of landing but stirs up a considerable flurry in the process. Album closer “Ættestupet” saves the day so to speak with a better rounded rhythmic hook and a sharper resolve but this only just rounds out the full listen into a strong, filler void ~35 minute shapeliness, finding some purely memorable moments along the way.
While I didn’t end up feeling like Heimland stretched themselves beyond the mold too readily on the full listen they did ultimately realize a serious, professionally presented experience which stuck in mind for its melodic values and familiar tone, a fine blend of strong melodic riffcraft-built composition conjured with sense alongside a recording which does a fine job of recalling certain pagan black metal classics. It is more-or-less exactly where a band should be when presenting a proper debut full-length meant to represent their path forward. While I wouldn’t consider this work deeply original or transformative at face value it is however a resonant, inspiring strike at wrathful melodic voicing which sticks in mind, appreciably advanced stuff for a band who’ve been around for less than a decade. A moderately high recommendation.
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