Review by Sonny for Vreid - Wild North West (2021)
Surprisingly I am not particularly familiar with Vreid considering that they were formed from the ashes of Windir (a band that I had a lot of time for) after the death of mainman Valfar. Consequently their ninth album is the first I have spent any time with. Apparently the album has an overriding concept which is based on tales and legends of their homeland in the north of Norway, hence the title Wild North West.
I must admit that the album caught me off guard a bit, there is a lot more variety to the tracks than I was expecting. Although the band's focus is primarily melodic black metal, that is mitigated by a number of other influences such as traditional metal, thrash metal and even gothic rock. Whilst this variety is welcome, it does affect the flow of the album and makes it feel a little bit fragmented. Dazed and Reduced, for example, sounds like it may have come from a completely different band with it's clean vocals and heavy gothic rock leanings and Spikes of God is a track seemingly of two differing halves. Shadows of Aurora seems to borrow a riff from Among the Living era Anthrax (think Skeletons in the Closet) and Into the Mountains has a layered chorus that, for me, doesn't work and to make matters worse has an electronic section that sticks out like a sore thumb. Back to back, these four tracks provide a strange and inconsistent heart to the album that I can't completely get behind.
The opening two tracks (the title track and Wolves at Sea) and the nine minute closer Shadowland (even with it's nice lone piano outro) are far more conventionally melodic black metal in nature and are, for me personally, the best tracks on the album (although I do like the thrashiness of Shadows of Aurora). Overall, an ambitious but fatally flawed attempt at a black metal concept album that just missed the mark a little too much for my preference.