"North Star"
By Thrash-head

A band with a very storied history in the underground, but also with it's fair share of bumps and hurdles, EINHERJER have been crafting their brand of viking metal for nearly 30 years now. Their brand has changed considerably in that time, going from violent and battle-hardened to almost peaceful and hopeful during their Ragner years. Thankfully, Grimar and Ulvar are still steering this longship through the storms and have led us to this: a culmination of the years of experience and the various sub-genres they've dabbled in all leading to something aggressive, catchy, and thoroughly..."Einherjer."

Right from the first hits of single "The Blood and the Iron," you get sucked in hard! The driving, lead-off track goes for the throat with aggro, thrashy vibes and would not be out-of-place on an UNLEASHED or mid-period BATHORY record with its intensity. Then "Stars" hits, with a slight plodding/marching delivery and it's more delicate atmosphere, only to give to a blisteringly headbanging chorus riff. Follow-up track "West Coast Groove" is a mid-tempo curveball that seemingly comes out of nowhere for someone not already familiar with the band's early '00s work, with a chord cadence vamping on that I-IV you hear so much in surf-punk. Not to go into every single track, but one can get an idea here that the material contained on this outing is rather varied. You get black metal battle marches, thrash metal moshes, simple-yet-effective headbangers, war kind of turns into an everyman's viking metal record. My favorite of the bunch is probably "Echoes In Blood" - followed closely by album closer "Chasing the Serpent'' - a well-crafted riff-fest with a fist-pumping chorus and parts that literally run through the band's career with gallops, lead harmonies, big rock chords, pounding bombastic drums. I mean, it might be my favorite song the band has ever done and that's even taking into account all the amazing tunes on their incredible “Blot” release. Such a riff monster!

Performance-wise I feel like this might be the most solid the band has ever been. Frode has been going between several instruments since the band's inception, now seemingly more comfortable in his permanent bassist role. His vocal delivery has always been an extremely strong point than often gets overlooked, with a gravelly and guttural tone the would be very at home on something considerably more extreme and blasting; I'd love to hear him on a dedicated black metal release! The guitars are shreddy when there's space for it, very tasteful in the solos, but never detracting from the riffage. If it doesn't elevate the song to something even more epic, then it doesn't get attempted. Much the same for the drums as well, as the performance is nothing short of rock solid but without any real technical acrobatics. It just wouldn't really fit if there were any.

The mix is rather well-done, too. It's vibrant without getting too modern, with plenty of attack and articulation from all instruments and with a subtle-yet-noticeable reverb that creates a cold, winter-ey vibe without being frozen tundra bitterness like what you get on a lot of black metal releases. The bass clanks through with plenty of punky energy, and if anything that would be the only thing mix-wise I'm not 100% sold on. I wonder if having a subtler tone with less attack might have been a better fit for the mix overall. If that's the only grievance I have as far as the sound quality goes though, then I think we can call this a very fitting sonic profile the band inhibits. 

All in all, I would very much call this a more than solid record by a more than solid band. It's certainly not the most extreme or most melodic thing the band has ever done, but I feel like it bridges a lot of gaps through the band's career and would definitely serve as a primer to the band. Definitely for metalheads who have not heard EINHERJER yet, this is the record to start with and then further expand into their discography.