EINHERJER - Dragons of the North (NAPALM Records - CD 1996)
I would rather be honest and admit right away that the so called Viking metal is simply not my favourite thing. Sure, there are maybe two or three bands, which I will always admire – and they’re Bathory obviously (but with albums number four to six!! I’m not so much into last Quorthon’s works), then Enslaved (from all their LPs!), Helheim (all!), also Windir… and that’s it. I can of course mention also quite few bands like Thyrfing, Manegarm, Moonsorrow, Falkenbach, Finntroll, which are good, I may even have and like some albums of theirs, but not so many and not so obsessively. And also Einherjer in amongst them. I suppose that the main problem with many bands from this style is that their music tends to be too soft, too “happy” hehe, with these humpa – humpa rhythms that want to take you to a dance around a fire rather than force maniacal headbanging and go berserk! I hate all that “take a horn of ale and sing along” shit! I prefer if the music is aggressive, but monumental and epic. It can be melodic, but must have dark, majestic atmosphere. Unfortunately many of the bands I mentioned go different way, like Finntroll for example, who released several albums, which I just can’t listen to at all. Einherjer is also one of those bands, which have better but also some worse albums. And they also suffer for the “too melodic / too catchy” syndrome. And they had it ever since the debut album “Dragons of the North”, which I am going to try to review now.
But with this album it’s rather weird thing that despite being what it is, “Dragons of the North” is still able to catch my attention. I don’t know… there’s something intriguing in this material, what makes me like it even if it’s almost against my usual musical preferences. Or maybe it’s just a fact that Einherjer wrote simply good songs for their debut. One thing is certain – since these beginnings, this band sounded pretty original, with their unique way of playing riffs, which also forced a specific rhythms and drumming, incorporating melodies, keyboards, etc into the songs and finally the vocals of Rune Bjelland are also not so common. So, despite sounding like a music played by some drunken, merry Viking people, “Dragons of the North” is still not bad at all.
So, I grab that damn cup of ale (sorry, no horns in my home, what a poser I am!), get drunk and sing along with Einherjer their happy hymns. Why do I even like this album? I mean, it sounds so infantile, so simple… But it has some good, memorable songs, filled with catchy, folky melodies / riffs, some acoustic parts, keyboards, but they’re epic and monumental enough. Really, each song from the album has these infectious parts what makes them utterly memorable and next time you play “Dragons of the North” you realize that you start to sing with the band hehe! I am not saying that I like all songs or that the album is flawless, because it is not! But such songs like “Dragons of the North” (with nice Bathory feeling), “Dreamstorm” are just good. I also like “Conquerer”, because it is a nice combination of slightly more angry riff and melody. These songs are lengthy, but Einherjer managed to create structures, with some cool arrangements, nice instrumental parts, a lot of diversity (love that acoustic break in “Storm of the Elder”), also vocals are often different (with Rune’s harsher vocals and Audud’s clean singing), so it is a good listen. Sure, this album will disappoint listeners, who prefer only harsh and aggressive stuff. But if you’re looking for well composed, melodic, yet epic Viking metal, then I think this debut from Einherjer is one of the best choices.
Standout tracks: “Dragons of the North”, “Conquerer”
Final rate: 70/100