Thursday, December 20, 2012


Helheim - Niðr Ok Norðr Liggr Helvegr
Perverted Taste, 2005
Genre: Viking Metal

1. Muspilli Strid
2. Blandt Ulvenes Frender Og Kråkens Traer
3. Jotne Vandring
4. Under the Norse Sky
5. De Kalde Marker Av Slag Fortapt
6. Drømmedans
7. Gravlagt I Eljudne
8. Gjennom Mørke Og Tåke

Originally Released: 1994

Perverted Taste has certainly been on the ball releasing rare demo material. Along with this release such titles as Shining “The Darkroom Sessions” and the Taake demos have also been released by them. Anyway, this is a repress of Helheim's 1994 demo. I first experienced Helheim with “Jormundgand,” which I acquired around the time it was originally released. I really did not think very favorably of “Jormundgand”. In fact for a long time it kept me from getting another Helheim album until they released “Blog og Ild.” So, I’m sure all of you are wondering what in the world possessed me to get the album prior to “Jormundgand” if I hated “Jormundgand.” I prefer to have a full discography of a band I actually enjoy, and seeing as how all their other albums rule, one can suppose I enjoy Helheim.

Like “Jormundgand” this has some songs that are centered on folk oriented music. I initially got into Helheim because they looked like a Viking Metal band, and that’s really precisely what they are. However, in 1994 the Viking Black Metal bands were still trying to really develop their sound. We all heard how much Enslaved changed from their demo days into what they ultimately became on “Vikinglir Veldi.” With “Hordanes Land” being the closest culmination of the eventual Enslaved sound. While Helheim's “Jormundgand” musically is undeniably Viking Metal, “Nidr ok Nordr Liggr Helvegr” is a little strange. It somewhat reminds me of Enslaved’s demo “Yggdrasil,” in that it’s very untamed. One of the major points that this band eventually learned is that you don’t sing over those majestic acoustic and piano passages in Black Metal vocals. This demo opens with “Muspilli Strid,” which is a beautiful acoustic passage with those infuriatingly high pitched vocals in the background. Therefore, at first listen I was afraid the entire album would feature these wretched, out of place, vocals. Luckily for me, when the actual metal section kicks in they stopped using that incredibly annoying vocal approach. So this demo actually stands to be a right sight better than “Jormundgand,” if you can really believe that. However, musically “Jormundgand” is far superior to this. The music on here seems overly random and actually makes less sense, but there are some good riffing parts like in “Blandt Ulvenes Frender og Kråkenes Trær” and then songs like “Under the Norse Sky” have these really strange ominous sections, but have this really old school passionate guitar approach, so they sound pretty good in the great scheme of things. They also have a simply amazing piano instrumental on here; “Jotne Vandring,” I honestly didn't know that Hrymr was that good at piano. I actually wish he would make that more well known in the newer material we hear nowadays, though I’m not sure how it would work on an album like “Yrsenia Pestis.” Regardless, they screwed part of this song up too with this random vocal yell in the middle. Maybe if I thought the vocalist was supremely exceptional it wouldn't bother me that much, but it just sounds like an amateur Black/Death Metal approach to vocals, certainly not the next Hreidmarr or Arioch by any means. Luckily on the vocal passages for the real metal songs the person singing sounds more experienced. (Please note it lists both the bassist and guitarist as vocalist so I’m not sure who the main one is.)

Ultimately this is actually a good album. Surprisingly for a demo track from 1994 the production actually is pretty damn good. Most demo material from bands of this caliber is basically incomprehensible. Helheim magically defied all the odds and have pretty good production and it doesn't sound like one harsh wall of fuzz and white noise. A part I find rather humorous is that the riff around 0:42 on “De Kalde Marker av Slag Fortapt” is extremely dissonant and reminds me of Blut Aus Nord’s “Mystical Beast of Rebellion.” Maybe Helheim were really just working ahead of their time. This is the only section of the album where the high pitched wails actually sort of worked, but on the rest of this track they were just okay. This is, believe it or not, actually a pretty good Black Metal album. I think it’s before they really came into their own right as a Viking Metal project full force, but damn, I sure do love that dissonant riff! I would never say this is an essential musical piece to have, but it is enjoyable to listen to in order to see where Helheim started out as a band.

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