Whenever I listen to some of the recent bands that play the viking metal style, I always think to myself, “Isn’t this about Vikings? Shouldn’t it be rawer and darker?”. That is the problem with this genre. Many bands that take it up end up following the melodic and symphonic route, to the point where it just doesn’t feel raw. In the case of Ukraine’s Miellnir, there are symphonic elements and melodic undertones, but their take on the Viking style is one that is raw and blackened. Their debut release on Stygian Crypt Productions, 2014’s ‘Incineration Astern’ is a serious take on the genre and one that does not place restrictions on the symphony and grandiosity.
The introduction does cast doubt with its keyboard driven sound. All doubts are laid to rest however, with the opening notes of ‘Prey’ as the thundering drums and pounding bass build up like Thor’s mighty thunders. The guitar work consists of tremolos interspersed with melodic licks and some light synth backing. The vocal work consists of rough growls that adds to the raw tone of the songs. Melody is also present in the tracks, but the overall tone is brutal.
One of the mistakes bands often make when it comes Viking folk is that in the slower tracks, they lose out on the momentum they initially build up. ‘Stand Against’ is a very good example of how to execute a slow track, without overloading it with melancholy and melody. The track almost sounds doom metal like. The heavy guitars spell a slow mesmerizing riff as the melody is subtly infused using the synth.
The way Miellnir writes a fun, drinking song is pretty darn neat. ‘Ugar-buhlo’ starts with an accordion that plays a tune that is very circus like and the guitars slowly join in. From there on the track builds up into this blast beat filled black thrash number, with some fun accordion and the frantic vocal delivery. Now this folks, is how a Viking party should sound!
Miellnir have a very interesting sound and their debut is a record that features an extreme take on folk metal. The production does a good job of balancing the many layers on the record. I like the way the symphonic elements are merely fringes added to the music, and not the focus of the music itself. The blackened tone stays the highlight and it brings out the grim nature of the music. The melodic solos are well executed and more importantly, does not sound like overindulgence.
‘Incineration Astern’ may please even hardened metalheads who don’t favor the folk genres. Miellnir’s first release is a solid record that hopefully paves way for many more.