If you’ve been reading the pages here at Metal Insider for the past number of years you know that we’re particular fans of Norway’s Helheim. Now on their 11th record, these black metal masters from Bergen always impress no matter they tend they do. And while their sound has evolved over time from their gritty, punishingly cold roots to the more atmospheric Rignir released just a short time ago, this latest record, WoduridaR harks back to their earlier sonicscapes – but not entirely.
If there was any doubt as to where Helheim were headed on this newest endeavor, the opening track “Vilje av Stal,” is about as lo-fi Norwegian Black Metal as they come. I haven’t heard the band compose a song as rough as this one in a long time, going back over a decade perhaps, though it isn’t quite the same type of rawness we get with their 1995 debut Jormundgand. There is a bit more restraint and certainly less repetition of sounds.
The absolute highlight of the record is the first single that released this past August. ‘Wodurida,’ the title track (translates to ‘The Wild Rider” in English), is a particularly compelling track that features Helheim at their best – a mix of clean vocals along with their traditional black metal singing style that they helped pioneer way back before this genre became commercially viable. But if you read the terms “black metal” and think bands like “Deafheaven,” you’ve got an awful lot to learn about the genre. Let Helheim be your instructors.
Another heavier highlight on the record is “Litl vis Madr,” which, again, has that late 90’s feel, but with a bit more nuance and intrigue. Think of this as an evolution from those earlier days and not as much as a rehash. There are time changes, appropriate use of restraint, and, of course, Helheim’s signature use of instruments you might not have ordinarily heard way back then. And part of what makes this record particularly enjoyable to listen to is that they contrast the really rough cuts with songs like “Det Kommer i Bolger” that are much more melodic and crisp. Think of it as a Norwegian winter – sometimes really rough and brutal, but then also breathtaking gorgeous after the storm passes.
A bit of a surprise on the record is a cover of Richard Marx’s (yes – THAT Richard Marx) 80’s hit “Hazard.” But unlike the version from Richard Marx, Helheim’s cover is really quite enchanting. They give it a colder, more distant edge than Marx was ever really capable of doing. One of the few songs they’ve ever done in English, “Hazard” will haunt you.
Helheim’s newest releases this October on Norway’s Dark Essence Records but can be ordered in the US here.