Early in my metal upbringing I was very much into Viking metal, or at least what I thought was Viking metal. Sadly, the extent of my knowledge in that subject was limited to Amon Amarth, and while Amon Amarth is a great band filled with bombastic sound, it’s not really good base for building a repertoire of good metal. It was, however, the best I could do under the watchful of eye of very conservative Christian parents. Fast forward about twelve or thirteen years and now my repertoire of Viking metal dwarfs nearly everything else. I’ve listened to Viking metal from every possible angle, genre, and country. Yet still that love of Amon Amarth persists. It’s still catchy and fun and bombastic (and we all need bombastic shit every once in a while even if we don’t admit it). And yet, their sound has remained almost completely static since “Fate of Norns.” Good for them. They found their niche and they are going to ride the wave. But I need something different every now and then, to make me feel alive. Enter Ulfdallir and their debut album “Fenrir’s Wrath.”
The name of the band and the album already show promise, I love the Fenrir myth and wolves in general, so we’re off to a very good start. The album cover, something I don’t usually talk about, deserves a mention too. I’m partially color blind so a lot of the artwork can go to waste on me but this time I could see a lot of the colors and how they blended. It’s a really beautiful piece in the Viking style of the great Fenrir looming over a victim of his. It’s visceral yet the lines and curves are beautiful.
Okay, enough with the art, let’s get to the music. It’s very obvious to me that Amon Amarth was a big influence on this Russian death metal band, but the direction Ulfdallir decided to take makes it wildly more interesting. The sound and atmosphere is not quite so sterile or pristine, rather the music is dirty and fast. Thankfully, it’s not muddled or unclear, rather I’d say the music is raw and very aggressive. It’s typical of death metal to be very virulent but have a very unfocused sound. Ulfdallir was pretty virulent but the sound was anything but unfocused, it makes me happy to say I really like this death metal band. The melodies were reminiscent of both Amon Amarth, catchy and headbang worthy, and Windir, with the deep emotional connection. I won’t say it was the best of both worlds but it was damn close. The drums added a lot atmosphere and depth that the album needed. The vocals were impressive. They were harsh yet not so overly harsh that I couldn’t actually pick out the accents with the growls (something I’ve never been able to do before). The lyrics were brilliant and emotional, adding depth and impact to the vocals, whose emotional range was much wider than most death metal.
This was just the debut album, I have a feeling that a band with this sort of talent, drive, and creativity can accomplish a lot. I won’t call them the underground Amon Amarth because that would be a disservice to them by comparing them so but damn Fenrir’s Wrath is a good album, album of the year good. It has everything that a Viking metal album needs, it’s got lore, it’s got culture (even if the band is Russian), it’s got emotion. The atmosphere isn’t as cold as an Enslaved album but it’s got chill where it needs it and bloody hell where it needs it. Damn good album!
Listen and support!