Review by Shadowdoom9 (Andi) for Windir - Arntor (1999)
Any warrior can make a journey through fields, forests, and mountains. Embarking on adventurous treks is a warrior's most essential objective besides combat. And it comes with the privileges of visiting villages, dining in taverns, and rescue those in need of help. However, the farther north you go, the deadlier it becomes. In extreme conditions, a storm would come to wipe you out. That was the sad unfortunate fate of Windir founder Valfar, his life taken in a blizzard during a trek to his family cabin in his homeland of Norway. RIP... This fact also warned me about how I should stop my melodic black metal exploration. I know how dangerous The North is for me, but I won't die, I just don't want to get highly committed to a genre still out of bounds from my moral comfort. But that's not to say I have anything against this Windir album...
See, Windir isn't a band that can be considered just black metal. This is epic melodic/symphonic black metal with colorful leads and mythological lyrics. All that and the genre's usual vocal screams and blast-beats make this sound a unique combo. Valfar was one of the more talented members of the Norwegian black metal scene. He could do everything except drums and clean vocals, which two other band members have done for him. He had an idea to make a black metal band that didn't follow the usual the genre's stereotypes, and he succeeded! There's powerful melodic riffing without sounding too cheesy, and the vocals are less aggressive while staying sinister.
You already know the incoming epicness straight from the 3-minute intro "Byrjing" (Beginning). After that, "Arntor, Ein Windir" (Arntor, A Warrior) blasts off as a flawless classic in the melodic black metal realm. Then "Kong Hydnes Haug" (The Burial Mound of King Hydnes), which is pretty great. While not as much of a gem in the crown as the previous track, there's still some solid black metal right there.
"Svartesmeden Og Lundamyrstrollet" (The Blacksmith and the Troll of Lundamyri), throughout it's 9-minute length, has only a few separate riffs under guitar leads and can still come out as one of the best songs I've heard in the genre. "Kampen" (The Struggle) isn't too struggling, but not very appealing either.
The 10-minute epic "Saknet" (The Longing) continues the technique of alternating between only a few riffs throughout the track. The instruments make the most change, taking turns playing each riff, whether adding more or less heaviness or harmony. That's the epic effect more black metal bands should have! "Ending" is a great way to go out, but it could've been better when closing a near-perfect classic of an album.
All in all, this atmospheric emotion, mythological lyrics, and melodic power are what make this album stand out in Norwegian black metal. It's much different from the more satanic bands of the scene. An excellent unique journey!
Favorites: "Arntor, Ein Windir", "Svartesmeden Og Lundamyrstrollet", "Saknet"