Árstíðir lífsins - Saga á tveim tungum I: Vápn ok viðr - (8/10)
Published on April 17, 2019
Despite not “Blacking” very much, I was somewhat intrigued by the title of Arstidir Lifsins’ latest album “Saga á tveim tungum I: Vápn ok viðr”. That is mainly because I had no clue what it could possibly refer to, but also because I felt there was more to it than shrieking, infernal hell fires and Beelzebub. There is shrieking, lots of it, but lots of other great stuff in this album. It’s no secret that the Icelanders know their way around black metal and this German/Icelandic trio is proof of that fact. I was pleased to learn that the band’s name means “Seasons of Life” and that they specialize in Norse history and mythology. This album in particular tells the story of king Olafr helgi Haraldsson at the beginning of the 11th century and is part 1 of what will become a double album, with the sequel expected around the end of the year. Now I definitely don’t have the knowledge to detail anything on the story, but with the musical skills that these northern magicians have, I’d choose them over my high-school history teacher anytime. The album will be released on April 26th through Van Records.
A quick warning to those of you with heart diseases… don’t play this album loud right off the beginning, for it can cause serious shock. The pure harshness of the classic black metal sound is at its best here and there’s of course the folk twist and chanting that adds the mysterious vibe I so much enjoyed. There’s a very gritty tone to the guitar sound, but it doesn’t get in the way of melody, and the flat grinding aspect of the riffs is exactly what you would expect in a black metal album. The long build-ups and atmospheric sections are great for building suspense in the songs and also for balancing out the rough edges of the sound. This record mostly falls along the expected lines of folk influenced black metal but gives you some cool surprises and twists with the narrative part and the chanting.
About time I introduce you to the wizards behind the sound. Stefan Drechsler is in charge of the guitar and bass parts on this album and Marsel Dreckmann is the main vocalist and storyteller. These two make up the German part of Arstidir Lifsins and have a great chemistry to the way they interact on the songs, The evil shrieks work alongside the screaming guitars and the storytelling and chanting comes into being with the clean guitars allowing for the album to form a great bipolarity between aggression and atmosphere. Furthermore, all three band members take part in the vocal performance forming rich choirs, and to extend the mysterious vibe to greater lengths all lyrics are in old Icelandic. It would be a challenge to get more obscure than this.
The Icelandic part of the band is Arni, who deals with the drumming and strings instruments such as violas and cellos. It’s this part that I like most about the record. The somber brass section works wonders when teaming up with the chants and storytelling (see the song “Fregit hefk satt”). Add the sound effects like wind and waves and the true natural landscapes of a cold northern island become tangible. Given my not so extensive knowledge in black metal I was left with a positive opinion and could see some similarity with Negura Bunget, but don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself. If anybody reading this happens to be a true black metal enthusiast, I think this album should definitely be on your to do list for 2019.