HEIDEN is back this year with “Era 2.” The Czech pagans are on a new label, the up-and-coming Blood Fire Death Productions, and the original two members (Kverd and Varnag) are joined by Einskaldir (drums) and Kalanis (bass). This is their third full-length, so by now they’ve got a good amount of experience under their collective belt. Let’s see what they do with it.
It’s pretty obvious from the get-go that the band is moving away from their Pagan Metal influences. For one, “Ledarium” significantly isn’t an instrumental introduction, but rather a mid-paced Black Metal rocker. We have to wait until the opening of “Vina” before we here any of the clean picking that was so idiosyncratic of “Tinne” (the previous release, in case this review gets up first). It’s not as well integrated, nor as thought out as the material on that album, which almost makes me think it was an afterthought. That being said, with a full-time drummer and bassist now in the mix, those instruments take a more active role. It’s Black Metal after that that reminds me at times of modern ENSLAVED’s less-progressive moments; the influence is especially pronounced on “Proxima Centauri.”
So the band has learned from their mistakes and they’ve grown significantly from “Tinne.” The forest-worshipping Pagan Metal in the last album has almost completely been pushed aside by modern Black Metal with aspirations toward the Progressive. The production is appropriately better and the band knows how to write more interesting instrumental sections without relying on an acoustic guitar (see “Pod Železnými Křídly Hvězd” for the strongest example). I have to say, I’m impressed with the amount of growth. I’ll miss the Pagan adjective, but HEIDEN anno 2007 is tighter, more focused than they were two years ago. They have the skills to go somewhere, so let’s see if they can use them. I expect better things from this band in the future.
Oh yeah, normally I don’t like providing translations for song titles in the tracklist up top, but since these are actually on the back cover I figured it was okay.
(Online July 1, 2007)