WINDIR - Sóknardalr
We move from the profoundly abstract to the ridiculously accessible this week. Windir hail from a small town in Norway called Sogndal. They were the brainchild of Valfar - a musician with a knack from writing catchy hooks who died years ago from hypothermia while lost in the Norwegian forests (how fitting). Before his untimely death, Windir released four albums of catchy, medieval-sounding black metal. Sóknardalr is their first album, released after the Helvete store closed, Euronymous was murdered, Varg (Burzum) was arrested, and the black circle had dissolved. Even in 1994 Norway was still the center of the black metal movement, and still introducing variations to the initial concept.
Windir's debut is 8 songs of moderate length, all very triumphant and downright positive sounding compared to many of their darker and more evil peers. Windir probably has the most in common with Enslaved, focusing on Norwegian ancestry and mythology rather than satan. The result is a black metal album that could appeal to those who thought they couldn't like black metal. Vocals are standard black metal screeches mixed with quite a few clean / sung vocals and various flourishes including a nicely out of place "yeehaw" in the first track. Windir is big on guitar harmony, typically placing a higher pitched guitar line on top of your standard tremolo-picked chords. I Ei Krystallnatt and Likbor are highlight tracks for me, because the harmonies are particularly cool.
Windir would go on to create one of my favorite black metal albums, 1997's 1184. On their debut, they are still perfecting their style and some songs are a bit too simplistic and sing-song for my tastes. Like I said though, it's instantly infectious and will get stuck in your head. This a good beginner album for those new to the genre who want to ease in with something that lacks the in-your-face harsh production or juvenile satanism of so many others. It gets a 3.5 out of 5.