Vreid - V
Indie, March 2011
Every once in a while an established band steps out of their shell to release an unexpectedly brilliant album, and Norway’s black metal stormtroopers Vreid have done just that with their fifth album V. Vreid’s past output left me feeling respectful but uninspired. Smash all your previous notions about the band because V is one of the best black metal albums of the year. With new guitarist Ulcus (ex-Windir, along with the rest of the band), Vreid has evolved their sound into the harsher, raw-edged brother of Enslaved. A masterful production job enables the introduction of acoustic passages, bone-jarring riffs, and subtle keyboards to the band’s sound without taking away from the vicious sting of their buzzsaw guitars and harsh (yet surprisingly understandable) vocals. It’s true that many Viking and black metal bands have run with this same sonic and conceptual masterplan laid down by Bathory on Blood Fire Death in 1988, but Vreid succeeds by bringing forth progressive elements without sounding forced or contrived. “Slave” is the most extreme example, with a recurring march-style drum beat that leads into ballad-like verses with acoustic guitars and clean vocals, eventually building up to a well-crafted guitar solo near the end of the song. Similarly mind-bending are “The Sound Of The River” and “The Other And The Look”, both of which twist and bend Vreid’s sound in interesting ways. Not all vestiges of the band’s earlier work is lost, and “Welcome To The Asylum” and “Arche” retain enough brutality to help V seem like a progression. “Wolverine Bastards” is the only song to not scale the heights of the remainder of the album, but only enough to be a minor blemish on an otherwise masterful album. V is strong enough to vault Vreid to the upper echelon of progressive black metal bands, and I have no doubts that nothing but more praise and visibility will come to the band if they further evolve their sound in the manner shown here.
Vreid performs a co-headlining show with Kampfar on Wednesday, August 31 at Station 4 in St. Paul with support from Necronomicon, Enshrined, and Maledicere.