With their fourth full-length album “Batavi”, Dutch HEIDEVOLK are trying to continue their march to the Viking Metal Olympus and while I had thoroughly enjoyed their previous offerings, I had been a little hesitant to fully embrace the new effort, since the two last albums had been fairly close in style, so how would the progression go, if at all. The cornerstones of their sound so far have been epic atmosphere, good melodies and the clear, deep dual vocal attack of Joris Boghtdrincker and Mark Splintervuyscht and while they have managed to carve their own niche with it, the dangers of a niche like that often lie in a band getting complacent and concentrating too much on staying within that niche and beginning to copy themselves after a more or less short while, so “Batavi” will be a measuring point for this.
Where “Walhalla Wacht” had shown a bit more of the faster side of HEIDEVOLK and “Uit Oude Grond” focused more on the epic outlook, “Batavi” now puts the two together with amazing results, because this is hands-down the best I have heard the Dutchmen bring forth to date! Without sacrificing the epic melodies, the guys have raised the level of intensity, speed and heaviness that it is bliss to my ears, since they show more variety than ever while staying true to their sound.
Opener “Een Nieuw Begin” hits home with the newly found crunch adding to the thick epic underlay and the equally epic vocal performance that is perfectly complemented by the choirs, great way to suck you in, just to smack you over the head with “De Toekomst Lonkt”, which comes with a strong double-bass foundation driving the track forward culminating in a great choir for the chorus, very nice set of dynamics overall, I love this album more and more! So what else does “Batavi” have to offer? Blastbeats (“Het Verbond Met Rome”), great shout chorus supporting the clear vocals (“Wapenbroeders”), a violin that threads through “Einde Der Zege” and adds SO much to the song and also doomy passages (“Vrijgevochten”), so variety is a great key to this! And how can you not love it when the faster passages sweep into “Als De Dood Weer Naar Ons Lacht”...?
While I am fairly sure that most of the people, who had hated HEIDEVOLK in the past or view them as a gimmicky band will not change their opinion, the Dutchmen have proved that they are able to avoid standstill without losing the integrity of their sound, which, you have to admit, as a whole is pretty unique and definitely makes them stand out from the majority of other bands of a similar ilk out there and that is more than many of these other bands can say for themselves. This is the most dynamic I’ve ever heard them and they cover all of their bases, I can’t wait to hear their next one, but let’s let this one sink in first, lol.
(Online March 11, 2012)