In spite of its primal origins, modern black metal has largely become associated with atmospheric and ethereal textures. Then there’s Vredehammer who hit like seventeen Mack trucks riding a fiery avalanche into battle.
Ironically, the Norwegians’ long-awaited third album Viperous, which dropped last week, sees the band experimenting by adding electronic elements to their sound. Not that they sound at all modern, mind you. The synths littered throughout Viprerous hark back to the likes of classic Emperor and early Cradle of Filth, while their surrounds recall mid-period Satyricon and Immortal at their most aggressive. Yet, for all their retro-aesthetic, Vredehammer also boast a bold, modern production – lending their sound the colossal fullness invoked by all those classic black metal acts, though never fully achieved. It’s classic black metal played through a modern death metal lens, and it’s every bit as satisfying as that sounds.
Their previous album, Violator (2016), is even better. The album makes no mistake about its intentions: launching out of the gate with a track titled “Light the Fucking Sky”, which is white hot and abrasive enough to do just that, and refusing to let up for the remainder of its seven, equally apocalyptic concoctions. Riff-for-riff, Violator might just be the most destructive black metal album ever committed to record. No band since has so perfectly combined the raw, primal appeal of black, death and even thrash metal since, and it seems unlikely they ever will, given just how perfectly Vredehammer navigate the intersection of metal’s three major subgroups on this record (doom and power metal be damned!).
Vredehammer’s debut, Vinteroffer (2014), alth0ugh not quite as developed as its progeny, is similarly satisfying. Of further note, however, is Black Blood Flux (2014), the most recent (final?) album from Allfader, which also features mainman Per Valla, along with former Vredehammer members Cato Skivik and John Erik Andersen. The album is a much more decisively and exceptionally brutal death metal affair. However, hints of black metal still seep through in its vocal delivery and melodic textures and the album is a worthy underground classic all on its own.
Valla and co. are clearly masters of their given genre(s) and, while for now they remain severely underrated within the extreme metal scene, it’s unlikely to stay that way for long. Especially if they keep putting out records this colossally devastating and demanding of attention.