The Spirit of Warfare
Melodic Black Metal
Melodic black metal has always been one of the genres that I tended to avoid, usually finding the riffs and instrumentation too cheesy and drowning out the underlying essence of the music. The Spirit of Warfare is the first full length release by Hyperborean, with the last release being the 2005 demo, Prey.
Fortunately though, Hyperborean doesn’t bore listeners. The opening track Channelling the Spirit of Warfare begins with an almost black/thrash feel, unlike the styles of usual melodic black metal bands. However, as the chorus sets in, the melodic trem-picking of guitarist Andreas is instantly familiar to fans of melodic black metal. One thing that makes Hyperborean‘s songs stand out are the song structures, at times almost reminding listeners of progressive bands such as Dream Theater, with the complex riffing, constant shift in tempo and technical lead guitar parts. Right from the opening track until the end, odd time signatures are utilised, a further display of their technical-progressive influences. The lengths of the songs are also another factor with most songs hitting at least the 7 minute mark, making this record a particular tough one for those with short attention spans. The acoustic section in The Last Stand Of Leonidas And The Battle Of Thermopylae also adds a nice touch, complete with an acoustic lead guitar solo, further emphasising the emotional aspects of the music.
Vocalist Magnus’ style is a tortured scream, very much like Code‘s Kvohst. However, he often contrasts that style with gruff and viking-styled growls, that brings to mind Amon Amarth‘s Johan Hegg, often layered on top of the screams to provide a fuller vocal effect. Couple that with the heroic themes and riffs unleashed such as on Weapon Mankind, it is forgivable that the listener might mistake this record for an Amon Amarth one.
Also unlike most melodic black metal bands, the keyboards in this record are almost non-existent, with the first hint of keyboards coming in in the form of a piano on Weapon Making. And for once, the album would have definitely benefitted from the increased presence of keyboards since the small amount of keyboard parts on the songs, with the exception of the beautiful intro of the epic The Last Stand Of Leonidas And The Battle Of Thermopylae, certainly made songs sound slightly awkward, such as on the closing track, The Sick Man of Europe. However, it is on this same track where the ingenuity of the band’s songwriting shines. When the chaos provided by the guitars above, what the listener finds is a melancholic and almost beautiful piano piece hidden beneath.
The drums provided by Fredrik Widigs, while nothing particularly spectacular or quick, sets the foundation on which Hyperborean has built their album upon. Also, while there is the inclusion of various guitar effects and techniques by guitarist Andreas such as artificial harmonics (on A New Sun Rises)and pinch harmonics littered around the album, they tend to get slightly awkward and out of place at times.
However, overall this is certainly an album that is highly recommended for fans of melodic black metal, yet are looking for a fresh sound, or for those who are looking for a band similar to Amon Amarth with a more black metal sound.