Andreas “Vintersorg” Hedlund (is he still going by Mr. V?) has long been one of my favourite musicians and I have always found his work with his eponymous band more rewarding than his other projects. In my mind, VINTERSORG’s best album was “Visions From The Spiral Generator,” the excellent 2002 offering that took the band in a heavier, more progressive direction. The Folk influences were decreased noticeably and the Black Metal nearly abandoned beyond Hedlund’s growled vocals. “The Focusing Blur” continued in that direction, but lacked some indefinable feature that kept it from reaching its predecessor’s lofty heights.
With “Solens Rötter” (“The Roots Of The Sun”), the Folk styling makes a strong return, as do Swedish lyrics and an examination of the place of man in nature (rather than in the cosmos). The album opens with placid acoustic work, but there’s never Metal very far away and Hedlund’s growled vocals are just as prevalent. The heavy stuff sounds at times like the less-refined material from “Cosmic Genesis,” at others like the blackened, break-neck Prog of the last two albums. To bolster the Folk aspects, the songs are often enriched by harp, violin, and especially flute arrangements. Sometimes these instruments don’t mix as well as one would like (segues from light to heavy in “Döpt I En Jökelsjö” spring to mind), but it is an interesting touch.
Another departure from the last two albums is the absence of Asgeir Mickelson and Steve DiGiorgio in the rhythm section. The drums are programmed through a drum machine, while bass is handled by stage player Johan Lindgren. With no offense meant to Lindgren, the rhythm section has noticeably less personality than on the last two albums and sounds a bit more like the solid but unremarkable material on “Cosmic Genesis.” Less palpable is the absence of Lars “Lazare” Nedlund, who had written lyrics for the previous two albums. That being said, guitarists Mattias Marklund and Hedlund are at the top of their game here.
But if you’re anything like me, you come to a VINTERSORG album wanting Andreas Hedlund’s vocals. He wont’ disappoint with his amazing baritone. Best voice in metal, I swear. The chorus for “Spirar Och Gror” begs me to sing along, but spot reading Swedish has never been a strong point for me. While he is as expressive as ever, he never quite reaches the emotional zenith of “Visions From The Spiral Generator.”
Sure, nothing has the hooks of “Vem Styr Symatren?” or the emotional resonance of “Universums Dunkla Alfabet,” but this is a still a very good album. At times it can get lost in its own softness, seemingly wandering aimlessly among acoustic or flute work (see the end of the opener), but it still blows BORKNAGAR’s latest away. As with all VINTERSORG albums, it probably won’t come to you immediately, but if you give it a few spins it’ll begin to make sense. It’s a step back, stylistically, but a consciously made one that shouldn’t disappoint fans.
(Online July 21, 2007)