Árstíðir lífsins – Saga á tvei m tungum I I : Eigi fj ǫ ll né firðir

Rating: 4/5
Distributor/label: https://van-records.com/Home
Released: 2020
Buy Album [URL]: https://arstidirlifsins.bandcamp.com
Band Website: https://www.facebook.com/arstidirlifsins

Band Line-up:

Stefán – Guitars, bass, vocals & choirs
Árni – Drums, string instruments, effects, vocals & choirs
Marsél – Storyteller, vocals & choirs

Tracklisting:

1.‘Ek býð þik velkominn’
2.‘Bróðir, var þat þín hǫnd’
3.‘Sem járnklær nætr dragask nærri’
4.‘Gamalt ríki faðmar þá grænu ok svǫrtu hringi lífs ok aldrslita’
5.‘Um nætr reika skepnr’
6.‘Heiftum skal mána kveðja’
7.‘Er hin gullna stjarna skýjar slóðar rennr rauð’
8.‘Um nóttu, mér dreymir þursa þjóðar sjǫt brennandi’
9.‘Ek sá halr at Hóars veðri hǫsvan serk Hrísgrísnis bar’

Review:

Arstidir Lifsins are a German/Icelandic black metal band on Van Records, who formed in 2008. They will be releasing their highly anticipated 5th album ‘Saga a tveim tungum II: Eigi fjoll ne firdir’ on 22nd May, 2020. It is a two-sided story based on the later period of the Norwegian king and saint Olafr Haraldsson (995-1030). It is certainly the band’s most ambitious and complex effort to date and is more based on Skaldic and Eddic poetry than ever before. It was mixed and mastered by famous producer, Markus Stock. 

It’s usually welcome when a band frequently employs numerous changes of pace and texture, but the more slow-paced and stripped back instrumentations here can get a little dull at times. Having said that, the gradually twisting, atmospheric and atonal strings sometimes heard are satisfyingly unnerving. Arguably they depict some kind of hellish setting rather than a past reality, but I don’t know… maybe things were really grim back then. It would perhaps be better if the spoken poetry that features over the parts just described were in English. I’m sure those who can understand the foreign tongues perceive everything to be epic if not fascinating, throughout. 

Fortunately there is much more to the album than horrifying soundscapes. You get all the black metal cliches such as tremolo picked guitars, screams and blast beats, and that doesn’t mean the music is without creativity. Far from it, the deep, chanted vocal parts that are well worth the wait add a sense of eeriness, power and surprise all at the same time. Tempos range from very fast, panicked blitzes to crushing doom where you can expect genuinely evil chord progressions that really do chill the bones. 

The way the whole album develops is very well done. Considering the frequency of all sorts of musical changes, you may expect the ending result to sound messy and rushed, but that is far from the case here. You could call this album a sort of black metal symphony. If you like bands such as Opeth who really put effort into their material, you will likely enjoy AL. However, it should be noted that the musical themes in this release aren’t as catchy and strong as the ones in Opeth’s albums, and there isn’t the same level as technical skill here, but there is arguably an equal amount of adventure.

In conclusion, a lot of time and thought went into this piece of work. Whilst there are clear build ups and climaxes that often surprise and are almost always welcome, thematically things are average. Again, the spoken poetry will offer little for those who can’t understand the languages, but the sense of story is still there in the form of instrumentation, melody, etc. This album is highly recommended for all black metal fans, and many prog lovers may enjoy it, too. (If they don’t mind the sound of a maniac vocalist).

Review by Simon Wiedemann
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