By Kyle Harcott
From seemingly out of nowhere, Louisville’s Seidr, formed in 2009, have raised the doom bar high with their debut full-length for Flenser. Allying throbbing, sub-zero sludge/doom riffs with poignant post-metal passages, beared up with throatgurge-ing vocals whose epic lyrics illustrate frozen paths of Nordic glory, For Winter Fire is a sprawling work, demanding the listener’s respect. Listening to this epic bit of Viking doooom is hardly a light undertaking, either – the majority of the songs push past the nine-minute mark.
The album opens with ‘A Vision from Hlidskjalf’. Low gemshorns raise the call to hunt amid pregnant post-rock moodiness, heavy with an expectancy of pummeling riffs to come. The swooping hammer blow finally comes swinging down about two-and-a-half minutes in, heavy enough to crack the surrounding ice. Immediately, my mind’s eye evokes blinding-white Hothen landscapes, breath freezing to particles of frost in front of me, eyes squinted against the unforgiving glare of the snowbound sun. Oh yes – Seidr have effortlessly managed to craft mood music that evokes the onset of a cripplingly-cold Norse winter. The song’s showstopping coda, with its hoar-throated hail to allfather Odin snarled over space-oddity guitar ties the eleven-minute track up in a neat bow. The added-delay production of the drums is of particular note, and it gives the lumbering percussion a particularly gargantuan feel across the album.
‘On the Shoulders of the Gods’ follows, its intro a din of roaring feedback and vague, haunting samples of hammer versus anvil, until the drums kick the song into a gurgling crawl. Through most of its twelve-minute run, the track underplays the crushing guitar riffs in favor of more of that planet-hurling space guitar, juxtaposed against double-tracked vocals, a different guttural growl in each ear.
The first part of ‘Sweltering’ excises subtlety in favor of pounding fullbore mud-and-ice riffs over my head, until the song’s halfway point, when the sample of a frostbitten thunderstorm accompanies a fragile guitar overture – bringing to mind the quieter parts of Eye of Every Storm-era Neurosis. And speaking of, the tender acoustic urgency of ‘In the Ashes’ is a sharp left turn, the subtleties of its vocal harmonies and mandolin passages recalling a space somewhere between the first Steve Von Till solo album, As the Crow Flies, and even (momentarily) the early-day hymnals of Pedro the Lion. It is a welcome respite and a brilliant interlude, stacked up against the bludgeoning force of the rest of the album – and as such it’s a standout track.
‘The Night Sky and the Wild Hun’ offers up more moody, lurching, thunderous doom, interjected here and there with some surprising clean vocals, as well as an unexpected interlude played on what sounds like an Indian bulbul tarang, before switching gears again to deploy some of the thickest riffs on the album in the song’s last third (which ultimately comes across as some of the heaviest riffing I’ve heard this year). The album rounds out with ‘A Gaze at the Stars’, and ‘Stream Keeper’, more stirring voluminous vinterdoom with ice crystals wedged firmly in beard.
Seidr have crafted a remarkable album in For Winter Fire, drenching it in massive thudding riffs as well as ornate swaths of atmospheric guitar. For a relatively new band crafting their first full-length, this album comes across like the work of seasoned veterans crafting their career magnum opus a few records in. Some stellar work at play here, and while this may be the first you’ve heard of the band, it definitely won’t be the last.
Listen to album samples here: http://soundcloud.com/flenserrecords/seidr-samples