Here’s another great album from 2011 that I managed to miss on the first pass. Vreid emerged from the ashes of Windir after the unfortunate death of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Valfar. “V” is Vreid's fifth album (ahh, sneaky, V is for Vreid AND five in Roman numerals). I’ve been passing familiar with Vreid since their formation in 2004 but it wasn’t until this album started making all the “best of” lists that I decided to really give them a closer listen.
From time to time I get nostalgic for the black metal of old - Dissection, Darkthrone, Emperor, Satyricon, Burzum, Mayhem and so on. Some of those bands are still around, and some are even still good, but the world has moved on and nothing ever stays the same. Black metal bands today certainly try to capture the spirit and rawness of the early days, but most who try for that cold, raw sound just end up with poor cavernous recordings that fail to capture what I love about that old music. The old Satyricon and Burzum albums in particular (and De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas) have this buzzsaw guitar sound and lo-fi production that just seems so impossible to recreate now. Vreid (if you include their time in Windir) began during that era and “V” exhibits what seems like the most natural evolution of that early sound.
Rather than going with the overly atmospheric sound that current black metal bands seem to think epitomizes the old school black metal sound, Vreid take the simple stripped down format of old black metal but record it clean and proper like it’s all grown up. The music still has the almost classical meets metal element about it, and the vocals are harsh and freezing. I don’t want to say the music sounds thin, that is only in comparison to the much more beefy death metal style, but like old school black metal it doesn’t rely on low end very much. A great production sound combined with the treble-heavy style makes the album sound old school and modern all at the same time. They do mix in some clean vocals with the harsh, but they seem wholly appropriate and are not of the symphonic Dimmu variety.
I hope the younger bands out there looking to make new black metal will give this album a listen and take note of how subtly awesome it is. I don’t expect this album will change things much in terms of black metal and bad production values, and that is too bad. If nothing else, I will at least look forward to another Vreid album in the next couple years. Until then, I highly recommend you give “V” a listen.