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Árstíðir Lífsins - Aldrlok review

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Band: Árstíðir Lífsins
Album: Aldrlok
Style: Black metal, Folk metal
Release date: May 2024

01. Hvítir Hjǫrvar Heimdalls Aldraðra Fjallgylða
02. Stormr, Hvítundit Grand Grundar Gjálfrs
03. Er Faðir Kulda Ok Myrkrs Hopar Fyrir Endalausum Vegi Ránar
04. Eftir Bjartlogar Hróts Hreggs Kveikja Ógnarstríðan Úlf Storðar Í Grasinu
05. Nú Er Lengstu Miskunndir Dalreyðar Ná Hátindi
06. Nauð Greyprs Élreka
07. Ek Sneri Aftr Til Golfhǫlkvis Fleygra Sárelda Heiftar
08. Fyrsta Fǫnnin Fellr Úr Hátunnu Regns
09. Ofsaveðrsgnýr Ber Auma Bústaði

Get ready to embark on an 80-minute epically atmospheric journey to uncover Iceland's troubling and uncertain past as if you were really there.

Established back in 2008 by frontman Marsél and fellow vocalists Stefán Drechsler (bass/guitars) and Árni Bergur Zoëga (drums), Árstíðir Lífsins (translating to "The Seasons of Life") are one of Iceland's greatest exports in metal. When it comes to incorporating traditional folk instrumentation into metal, bands such as Moonsorrow would perhaps first spring into mind; however, Árstíðir Lífsins take this approach to an entire different level. Through themes mostly based on old Norse literature and history, they take listeners on lengthy imaginative journeys, introducing classic folk elements such as string instruments, folkish chants, and narrations, giving the feeling that the great Vikings are telling their epic adventurous tales themselves. This is exactly what this latest release offers, and dare I say, in an even more epic fashion.

Aldrlok is the band's 6th full-length release to date, and with an epic 82-minute runtime, this mighty offering promises to pick up from where previous releases left off; for those not familiar with this band, what does that entail exactly? Firstly, the album's lyrics are sung entirely in Old Norse-Icelandic, featuring Skaldic and Eddic poetry. The concept itself is based on some of the most turbulent times of change in Icelandic history, in particular the Christianisation at the first half of the eleventh century, hence the album title Aldrlok (which translates to 'End of an Age'). The theme is set around a fictional story set during this period where older customs became obsolete, giving way to new traditions and beliefs.

The album acts as a single flowing concept from the first track to the last, all beginning with "Hvítir Hjǫrvar Heimdalls Aldraðra Fjallgylða", the first of four epic songs longer than 10 minutes that this monumentally long album features. Here, the album shows the most beautiful side that atmospheric black has to offer, as these 3 multi-talented Icelandic musicians present exceptionally orchestrated symphonic arrangements, from viola strings to keyboards, along with nature-themed synth effects and trademark chants performed in godly fashion. On top of that add sinister blackened shrieks that are as clear as they are harsh, accompanied by epic bard-like narrations. The following track, "Stormr, Hvítundit Grand Grundar Gjálfrs", takes a more traditional black approach; simply put, this song is 10 minutes of high-end blackened fury, with frenzied, powerful blast beats that drives the rhythm section alongside ferocious blackened tremolo riffs, as the vocals are delivered mostly in the form of blackened shrieks (with occasional chanting sections).

Although these opening 2 tracks veer off slightly in style, in the sense that one focuses more on the atmospheric aspects while the other is generally geared more towards black metal, the remaining stretch of the album goes back and forth between these styles. Sure, along this epic journey you'll be captivated by mesmerizing narrative tales, hypnotizing tribal-like drum beats, and beautiful sweeping melancholic viola strings, along with all the other elements mentioned above, but this ultimately means the album doesn't necessarily add many surprise elements along the way that'll shock you. It's important though when approaching this album to look at it as a whole concept rather than seeking out individual songs that might stand out from the rest. Personally, I'd say it would be foolish to skip your way through, as it'll spoil the special atmospheric journey it provides; just make sure to find enough free time and try not to lose concentration midway through. Another thing you might feel yourself wanting to do is look into translating the lyrics, as they are, of course, in Icelandic. However, this is one of those cases where I simply prefer to sit back and soak up the amazingly powerful vocal performance (particularly the chants) without knowing what the lyrics are or mean, as I feel there's a powerful sense of mystery in not knowing.

Aldrlok is definitely a lengthy album, one that may require a certain level of concentration; it's not a headbanger, that's for sure, and there's certainly no hit singles to be found here. What it is though is an epic, adventurous tale crafted with outstanding musicianship by one of the finest atmospheric/pagan black metal bands around in Árstíðir Lífsins.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 10
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 8

Written on 06.06.2024 by Feel free to share your views.


Comments: 8   Visited by: 103 users
06.06.2024 - 22:15
Rating: 9
Did you listen to their EP from last year? It had been on my list for quite a few months and a few weeks ago I listened to it. It blew me away. So I was checking to see if they have a full length planned and was happy to find that I only had to wait 2 or 3 weeks. This certainly disappoint. Still haven't decided how to rank this on my 2024 list
06.06.2024 - 22:27
Rating: 8
A Nice Guy
Written by Oldy86 on 06.06.2024 at 22:15

Did you listen to their EP from last year? It had been on my list for quite a few months and a few weeks ago I listened to it. It blew me away. So I was checking to see if they have a full length planned and was happy to find that I only had to wait 2 or 3 weeks. This certainly disappoint. Still haven't decided how to rank this on my 2024 list

I remember reviewing their EP last year and found it pretty impressive, so I was really looking forward to this full-length. I expected this to be good but it's even surpassed my expectations, probably one of my favorite releases so far this year, certainly in the folk metal category.
07.06.2024 - 00:41
Rating: 9
Oh it's definitely somewhere in the top 10 for 2024 for me. Last weekend was just one of the best weeks so far for metal
07.06.2024 - 01:14
Rating: 9
This is my AOTY so far, one of the best folk black albums I've listened to.
07.06.2024 - 10:11
Cynic Metalhead
Paisa Vich Nasha
Very well articulated, Andy. Just to point you out that you could have put Eluveitie before Moonsorrow as they are more closely associated when it comes to use traditional folk instrumentations brilliantly.

Good to see new Árstíðir came out, it was totally off my radar.

07.06.2024 - 12:37
Yeah, I listened to it! Totally get what you mean, it was pretty awesome. Exciting to hear they've got a full-length coming out soon.
08.06.2024 - 01:06
Gave this album quite a few spins today, this review is on point. It really feels like journey, one that I really enjoyed and will keep enjoying for a while.

Excellent album, absolutely not for a quick fix.
Germain Morin
09.06.2024 - 12:23
Rating: 9
Kosst Amojan
Listening for a fourth or maybe even fifth time already. It is the best album of the year so far for me, or at least in par with Solbrud's "IIII", another monumental piece of atmospheric black metal.
Great review, Andy, you covered all that it matters regarding this fantastic piece of music, this is a rare gem in today's metal scene!

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