02. Ur stjärnstoft är vi komna
06. Havets nåd
Vintersorg, which is more or less the solo project of Swedish prog genius Andreas Hedlund, is definitely one of the bigger names in the progressive/blackened/folk metal scene. As its predecessor Jordpuls, Orkan is a part of a series of concept albums on the four elements. Jordpuls was the earth, and Orkan is, contrary to the water-filled cover, the air. Orkan means hurricane, and somehow the sound of the album is reminiscent of being in a cold, windy landscape. It’s a hard feeling to explain, but the best of atmospheric prog metal albums always have their own mood, their own world that they draw you into. So what kind of world does Vintersorg beckon you towards in Orkan?
One thing that is necessary for appreciating albums like Orkan, or Borknagar‘s (a project that has 3 amazing vocalists, one of them being Vintersorg himself) Urd, is immersion. One must be able to give oneself to the music. That, and appreciation of its beauty in simplicity. While the music isn’t immediately complex like you would expect from other progressive bands, there is depth to be found in Orkan. The songwriting is pretty off-kilter, but that is to be expected with Vintersorg. In a similar fashion to Opeth‘s Heritage, there is quite a bit of 70’s prog rock influence, but it’s not the central theme like it is on heritage, it’s more of a guideline to execute the parts of the sound that are more folk driven than blackened. If you’re not a fan of Vintersorg, this album isn’t really going to convert you, but if you’re a longtime fan, there’s some stuff going on here that might impress even the most jaded of Vintersorg fans.
The production is better than the last couple of Vintersorg releases, giving the feel that the music is being performed in a damp old inn by a live band. The guitars aren’t overbearing, and the synths nicely sit in the background. The drumming is mellow yet powerful, and the vocals take the center piece without stepping on anything else. To be fair, the drum machine sound gets old after a while, and it does make one wish that Vintersorg just got an actual drummer to record the album, but it’s not something that ruins the album, as the drums are never really the main attraction. This album seems to contain a bit more blackened elements than Jordpuls, which at times seems at odds with the laid back production, but in context of the main tone of the music, it works well. Orkan is mainly a progressive folk metal effort, and even though that might sound cringe-worthy for some, it’s actually quite cool, and even brilliant at times.
The songs are all of considerable length, with the average track length being over six minutes. Each song follows a musical journey, slowly working through several themes, building an atmosphere and then rewarding you with beautiful vocal melodies. The keyboards take a dual role, at times providing a landscape for the rest of the music to paint; while at other times taking up the lead and driving the melody. There are all kinds of subtle moments that one might miss during initial listenings, so repeated indulgence of this album gets more and more enjoyable.
In all honesty, this album is better than Borknagar’s Urd in some aspects. It doesn’t have the crazy vocal diversity or the more professional production, but the songwriting is generally superior in terms of lasting value. Urd had beautiful songwriting, but it’s not as intricate and engaging as Orkan can be when Vintersorg is at their best. The best moments of Orkan are significantly better than anything on Urd. Given the resources at Borknagar’s disposal, this could have been a perfect album. As it stands, it’s still a great album that is definitely worth repeat listens for fans of the genre.
Vintersorg – Orkan gets…