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Sunday, March 30, 2008

CD Review: Heidevolk - Walhalla Wacht

Heidevolk - Walhalla Wacht
2008 Napalm Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



One thing about heavy metal music; its appeal has never been centralized to one vicinity or a mere handful of locations. The sound is never territorial and it courses through the veins of the infected from all walks of life and all countries. In the eighties, to reach transcontinental shores to experience what others were listening to was done through time-exhaustive international snail mail, or the scant few (as relates to the grand perspective) bands that won solid recording deals to have their albums distributed through other countries.

Nowadays we've become a more global society at-large, and the metal community itself has grown exponentially so that we're all in touch with one another courtesy of the internet and expedited overseas shipping. What this means is that in North America we're being exposed to more and more metal that has already been firmly entrenched in Europe, South America and Asia in addition to more recent additions and what seems to be a highly "in" thing, particularly in Euro and Scandinavian metal right now is what gets sub-sanctioned into press-tailored categories such as "Nordic Metal," "Celtic Metal," "Pagan Metal," "Epic Fantasy Metal," "Viking Metal," "Folk Death Metal," or "Forest Rape ala The Evil Dead Metal," if you like. Perhaps we ought to lump it altogether under one banner called "Heritage Metal" because the sound of triumphant odes inspired by ancient folklore, helmed by the assistance of power metal drives, occasional thrash and a lot of earthbound folk-oriented instruments has become a literal rage through widely-varied and differently versed bands such as Tyr, Korpiklaani, Fintroll, Leaves Eyes, Falkenbach, Ensiferum and of course, Nightwish.

Whereas the original New Wave of British Heavy Metal was at-heart a celebration of Medieval times and a post-Elizabethean England supreme, today's "Heritage Metal" practitioners have drifted further back in the history books to find their relative afflation. Bands such as Gelderland, Netherland's Heidevolk can be seen dressed in time period garb as say, Battlelore prior to their Evernight album, and in some ways, we've entered a Renaissance Fair subculture in metal, one where it's not just fun to drift around a replicated, dusty period of time with mead from your local microbrewery in a replica horn flask in one hand, a turkey leg in the other, and a recently-purchased dagger and leather sheath strapped to your kilt. The daydream effect of Old Europe has caught on so much that a band like Heidevolk runs like hell with the entire precipice through hammering power metal grooves and a pair of vocalists singing in native tongue that is like Saxon reinterpreted through more primeval schools of folklore.

Though Heidevolk hasn't exactly written the folk-rooted equivalent to Wheels of Steel, there's an undeniable NWOBHM stamp atop their third release Walhalla Wacht that gives these Dutch metallers all the platform they need to croon and wail stoically through songs like "Saksenland," "Koning Radboud," "Opstand Der Bataven" and "Het Wilde Heer," the latter of which rips forth with rapid guitar strums and traditional fiddles that set up the song's fist-pounding choruses.

Heidevolk utilizes a duo of clean vocalists and frequently they jockey amongst themselves like a pair of pub rousers while attempting to carry forth loud and proud Germanic and pagan odes, stripping things down to an acoustic gang rabbling on the practically inebriated "Naar De Hal Der Gevallenen." Pass 'em an ale and pass this writer a stout...

The random dynamics of Heidevolk exhibits comes courtesy of a mix of blasting black metal tempos and power crunches on "Zwaarden Geheven," then tempered immediately thereafter by an organic, reed-flavored finale, "Dageraad." In this respect, Walhalla Wacht is a fun (if occasionally choppy) album that will undoubtedly have you sharpening your battle axes and oiling your swords inside the fantastical netherworld of your hero conqueror's imagination...

Rating: ***1/2

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