Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Sleipnir - Oaths Sworn in Blood & Mead

SLEIPNIR - Oaths Sworn in Blood & Mead (GARDARIKA - CD 2014)
Finally! – I should say, as this was such a long wait for the new Sleipnir album. I think the band announced its coming already two years ago, but it took them a long, long time to have it released… They were searching for the label (but ended up again with Gardarika, who also released their first CD), then the label needed some more time to have it all done... Ah, ages, it felt like ages, but my hunger was growing and growing. You know, I just really loved “Bloodbrothers”, which is such an awesome and unique album, with brilliant epic songs. “Oaths Sworn in Blood & Mead” is a rightful continuation of the debut, so I can assure you that all of those who liked “Bloodbrothers” will like it as well... And those of you, who have never heard Sleipnir before, but like very epic, monumental viking metal then get this band’s CDs straight away; it is a must to have for you!
I guess I should start with introducing you the style of Sleipnir a little bit, because it is quite unique and unknown band. Their music will certainly remind you some other bands; I personally hear a lot of similarities to such Forefather, Bathory (obviously), Summoning, Falkenbach, Einherjer… The band itself is also often saying how greatly influenced they are by such Manowar and yes, certainly you can hear it here and there, especially with some choruses, melodies... Such album as “Oaths Sworn in Blood & Mead” is definitely not something what can be considered as aggressive, harsh and violent music. It is more focused on creating the atmosphere, on the epicness and monumental, almost kind of bombastic playing, with really great vocals – many of which are multiple chorus vocals, sang with clean, powerful – warrior like - voices. There is also a strong melodic touch to the whole album and finally it contains many orchestral parts as well. The whole effect is just exceptional and very original, I must say. This music is very catchy, very memorable, it contains many fragments, which will just force you to join the warrior choir and sing to the glory of the northern gods or praise the bravery of the ancient warriors. Yeah, I guess that viking metal is explored by many bands nowadays – most of which I don’t like at all, like all those Ensiferum or Turisas kind of bands… I must say that I like Sleipnir 42342 times more.
I do admit though that “Oaths Sworn in Blood & Mead” is not an easy album in a way that… well, first of all I must say that my first impression to it was that I prefer “Bloodbrothers” more. And I still do; I just think that the songs on the debut plus their totally brilliant and infectious melodies and vocals were better. I remember such amazing anthems as “Warriors of Thor” and “Once We Were Kings”, which were just spotless and perfect. I loved them. Songs on the new album are also excellent, but maybe not quite as much as those, which I just mentioned. Maybe some fault lies within the production of “Oaths Sworn in Blood & Mead”, which is kind of… hmm, weird. Especially, when I listen to it on the headphones it just doesn’t sound totally right, and I do not only mean the drum machine, but maybe also the guitar sound and something what I cannot describe, but what sounds like a distortion in some moments (like the chorus part in “The Blood and the Bones”). Anyway, the truth is also that the more I listen to the album, the more I get used to it. The album may also feel slightly too long, as it contains almost 80 minutes of music (with just six songs!), so it is difficult to: 1. Listen to it carefully from start to finish and 2. To pick up the very best moments from it, as it is just slightly too much of everything and a small feeling of monotony appears once or twice. Saying that, I do admit also that it took me several listens, before I started to appreciate the album fully and really enjoy it. But when I have been listening to the album for the fifth or sixth time, I started to “discover” it, if you know what I mean and really liked it. Yeah, there are some truly fantastic moments on “Oaths Sworn in Blood & Mead”, definitely, and I can say that Sleipnir didn’t disappoint... They didn’t do a better album than their debut CD, but a very, very good material definitely.
The album starts with a long orchestral introduction and “Hail the Heathen Hordes of Midgard (Sworn to the Hammer of Thor)” is certainly a song, which is the best from the whole CD. I like it a lot, the brilliant playing, often reminding me Summoning and Falkenbach, with these very infectious melodies and killer chorus (“Hails the hordes of Midgard, blood on the sword, hail to the horde!”)… I cannot resist it and always listen to it with a great pleasure. Another brilliant piece is titled “Farewell (To a Fallen Brother)” – this 17 minutes long opus has everything what I like about Sleipnir music and damn, it is just excellent, especially its long instrumental, orchestral passages, which so often remind me the heroic movie soundtrack. And yeah, obviously it would be a movie about the Vikings and the Nordic Gods! The same can actually be said about “What the Runes Foretold”, which is also just an amazing song, with truly haunting atmosphere and great, bombastic, epic instrumentation. Meanwhile “Blood on the Sword” belongs to these more aggressive songs of “Oaths Sworn…”, there is even a blasting, fast part, to underline the anger and feeling of the warrior, when going to the battle. And it sounds killer! I guess there’s just one song, which I like less than the others and it is “The Blood and the Bones (Once We Were Kings part 2)”. It is just not as impressive, not as monumental and memorable as the rest of the material and in some way if I mentioned something about monotony, then I meant this one particular song more than everything else.
So, here it is… The oaths have been sworn in blood and mead. This album only confirms how great band Sleipnir is and I am very glad that I had a chance to listen to this CD. It is not a perfect album; as I mentioned I still prefer “Bloodbrothers”, simply because the songs on the debut are better and maybe the production is also slightly better… But I truly admire the work the band did for the second album and in the end, after several listens I can say that I like this material a lot. It is not faultless, but a very good album indeed, so I can only recommend you Sleipnir. Support this band, get their both albums and listen to some of the most exciting Viking theme records released ever since the greatest of all Bathory’s trilogy. For me Sleipnir is just as good as Falkenbach, Summoning and Forefather; so three bands, which I am also a big fan of. So, hail to the Odin!
Standout tracks: “Hail the Heathen Hordes of Midgard (Sworn to the Hammer of Thor)”, “Farewell (To a Fallen Brother)”
Final rate: 70/100

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