This lot let you know what you're in for from the start, it's a chunky chop slapper that's got the balls of a Great Dane and they take the utmost pleasure in waving them about in your face.
“Schlachtensang” is a spirited surge of energetic Pagan Metal with horns on, it mixes melody with a stomping heaviness and is delivered with a gruff enthusiasm that, despite the relative length of the album, keeps you on board. There's high jinx afoot as these songs sail by, driven on a gathering gale, dark clouds roll above a white capped wave of frothy Viking spume.
There's a lot happening on this album, unfortunately not all of it is obvious, despite a lot of punch to the production it's often the case that some of the embellishment is understated and some times nearly lost in the mix. Case in point is a trilling lead riff during “Sturmvogel” that I initially thought was coming from another room, such was the lack of emphasis, strange when other lead strikes are very much to the fore. The only other quibble I have is that the album seems to be a tad rough around the edges, it doesn't sound like a deliberate production effect and indeed this sort of music usually benefits from a crisp finish.
Criticism aside, “Schlachtensang” remains a strong album, this lot definitely drink Irn Bru. The melodies are rousing and lift the music from its mainstay grit 'n' granite landslide of grey guitar, the rhythm side has plenty of chug and judder as well as thrumming groove and it lays a solid foundation for the lead side to gambol upon. VRANKENVORDE concentrate on the pummel rather than the pace and although they are capable of a race with the devil, they tend to roll on like a tank battalion rather than streaking off like the fly boys. This means that the drums, whilst lively, prefer to pound rather than blast, they even avoid incessant double bass fidget for the most part. The bass is right up there, rounded and rumbling, it pokes away like a demolition boom with a hangover and acts as an ornery counterpoint to the more exuberant lead guitar.
Though the sting of melody is marked, it isn't ubiquitous, some songs are graced with very little of it, though brief moments of quasi acoustic strum feature instead. The instrumental is a loose rendition of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and though rousing, thankfully doesn't suffer the cheese associated with the lyrics. Talking of lyrics, on the other tracks they are delivered with gruff gusto, there is a bestial sneer to them but despite the snarl, the words are discernible, it ain't quite a full moon yet. When VRANKENVORDE combine all their positives they are more than capable of building the moment and spinning a ripping yarn, different to others, they avoid some of the more cheerful tones of some within the genre, they conjure a darker sound so that even when they lift on a soaring motif, it's more vulture than eagle.
There's no question that VRANKENVORDE pulse promise, they can tell a tale and in the case of “Euch Lachend Entgegen,” they'll kick your teeth in. Shame about the production problems, though only minor, they just prevented this album from being the dog's bollocks, ah well, at least that'll give them something to chew on for next time.
(Online September 29, 2008)