“We’re going back to our roots” is something that a lot of bands say. So often, that the phrase has almost lost its point. It’s more interesting, though, when uttered by a band that aren’t backed into a corner. While many bands say this to reinvigorate interest after a series of releases that meet lukewarm reception or are creatively bankrupt, Vintersorg are clearly not one such band. In fact, they’re pushing along steadily, and frontman Andreas Hedlund also helms Borknagar, so he has a lot of room to explore his writing. Still, he has chosen this direction for his tenth album, making a sequel to their debut. It’s an odd choice, but it works!
What’s even more bizarre is that Till Fjälls Del II comes after the third album of a four-album concept saga. It’s unclear right now whether the elemental saga is abandoned or just put on hold, but either way, this is a brave move. If anything, how unintuitive the timing on this release is gives sole confidence as to the genuineness of their motivations. They really felt like this was the right time to follow up on their debut, so they did.
The selling point is that they are reiterating on ideas from that era. Of course, it’s filtered through the lens of a modern Vintersorg sound. So in a way, this is a best of both worlds. When taken to the very core elements, this album isn’t that big of a departure sound wise from the band’s trajectory, so it would have fit in just fine even without a narrative about returning to their debut.
That being said, there are some Vintersorg-isms that the band have developed over the years that are absent here. The more groove-oriented or experimental riffs they employ on recent releases, backed by anthemic singing, are replaced with more traditional black metal stylings. Namely folky singing over melancholic chords or trem picked guitars. In that way, Del II is less experimental. But that’s to be expected when it iterates on a two-decade-old formula. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Andreas’s voice is great when contrasted with any melody. His unique way of finding a different direction to take with his vocal lines is always a treat to listen to, and as such, he’s the highlight here.
Listening to the 1998 original and the 2017 continuation of Till Fjälls is remarkably seamless. Besides the difference in production, this album could have been released in 1999 and been considered a worthy successor to a seminal debut. Today, it’s an interesting experiment that holds up despite trying to act like a relic from a bygone era. Either way, anything Vintersorg is great, and Del II is no exception.
Till Fjälls Del II is available 6/30 via Napalm Records and can be pre-ordered here.