Helrunar / Árstíðir Lífsins – Fragments: A Mythological Excavation

Fragments: A Mythological Excavation is a split album, born out of the collaboration between the two German labels Prophecy Productions and Vàn Records, featuring two bands perhaps not too well known in our parts but certainly of great artistic depth. We are talking about Helrunar, undoubtedly better known also because they have been active for well over a decade, also from Germany, and Árstíðir Lífsins, a recently formed combo that includes musicians from different northern European nations: they share not only the genre played, but also a passion and a far from superficial knowledge of Nordic mythology (and not only, as we shall see). Both dedicated to a form of epic, atmospheric black with a strong ethnic component, the two bands take this opportunity to each present a long track that once again reaffirms their previously expressed abilities. The split opens with Wein Fur Polyphem by Helrunar, who, through their leader Skald Draugir, shift their focus to Mediterranean mythology, tackling what is probably its best-known poem, the Odyssey. The song is a perfect example of all-around cultured and evocative music: in its quarter of an hour, it alternates choral parts, passages of enormous impact characterized by riffs, now surgical, now capable of evoking the never dormant fascination of the exploits of Odysseus and his fellow adventurers. Árstíðir Lífsins, if as already mentioned they can be considered in some way belonging to the same vein as their split comrades, actually move the bar even further toward the more melancholic and symphonic side of the genre; mind you, here we are not dealing with bombastic keyboards but rather with classical instruments that perfectly complement the black-minded rants. I admit guiltily that I am not familiar with what this magnificent band has composed in the past, but the compositional level of Vindsvalarmál is such that I thought I had missed something important. In these twenty minutes, the band led by multi-instrumentalist Stefan takes us by the hand into the world of Norse myths, and it is all done with the competence and knowledge that only comes from a thorough study of the subject matter (the same goes for Skald Draugir as well): all this finds its natural outlet in the music, making this track a real gem, superior to Helrunar‘s already remarkable contribution. I must say that I have always considered split albums as minor works with a somewhat scattershot character, but I can only approve 100% of this operation, which delivers us a good half hour of excellent music, as well as increasing the anticipation for the next long-distance releases of the two bands.

2013 – Ván Records / Lupus Lounge