Review: Ereb Altor – Järtecken

Ereb Altor – Järtecken (Hammerheart Records)
Review by Milos Sebalj

The Gods of Heavy Metal have a funny way of arranging things so that you must be a fan of a certain band. Take Bathory, for instance. Even if the early, primitive stages of Quorthon’s career are too much for your ears, then the so called ‘Viking era’ must be close to your personal taste. Or perhaps the solo (heh, it’s not like he had much help on Bathory releases), self-titled work. Whatever the case, the Swedish legend lives on and continues to inspire the entire genre of Viking (Black) Metal. His country mates, Ereb Altor, are just one of the examples. And one of the more successful ones, for sure.

With 16 years of existence under their belt, the quartet has a huge musical offering of 8 full length albums (including the one presented here) and a single EP and demo. All of this (excluding the debut demo) was released in the past 11 years. Hyper production is what scares me every time I come across such statistics, even if the statistics should mean very little when it comes to art. The mentioned Bathory (or even Primordial, as another of possible influences) had a few ‘inactive’ years to prepare the next release. Ereb Altor guys do not allow themselves such ‘luxury’.

Now, with all that productivity, how do they keep their creative effort on a high level? Do they at all? I’m going to say yes. It’s not that “Järtecken” is a masterpiece, or a future classic as the info sheet suggests. Even the continuous spinning of the record did not convince me of that. Still, Ereb Altor manages to produce quite an interesting mix of genre specific Viking atmosphere with more aggressive parts, reminiscent of the first era of (again) Bathory, just much better produced. Scandinavian Black Metal and German Thrash play a significant role on the album at the moments where the Vikings rush into battle (“Prepare for War”, for example), as opposed to their arrangements for a trip to Valhalla in the more atmospheric parts. Occasional guitar solo comes in to further enrich the sound, as well as the ever-present keyboards that make up most of the general feeling of the album. All these features would not mean a thing if the Swedes just keep playing on the safe, well-established patterns. Fortunately, Ereb Altor delivers a good dose of really engaging parts to their songs which keeps them fresh, in spite of the large amounts of music they are releasing. Vocal performance is the thing that will summon Primordial references, combining screams and clean voices, even though the Swedes distribute the responsibilities more equally in comparison to Mr. Nemtheanga.

The thing is pretty clear. We are dealing with a band well set in their intention of prolonging the legacy of one of the legends of Heavy Metal in general. Just one more, some might say. It is simply not the case here. Ereb Altor remains true to their roots and influences but manages to explore them further and create an interesting output. It is a short road to take for them to make a more significant impact on the genre. While “Järtecken” remains a decent and well above average record, I get the feeling they just need more time between their releases and a bit of a selective approach to the crafting of the songs. Other than that, there is no doubt in my mind that the fans of Viking Metal will be absolutely delighted with this album.

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