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With their debut 'Vinteroffer' Vredehammer received quite some recognition earning a nomination for the Norwegian Grammies and opening slots for bands like Satyricon and Keep of Kalessin. I have to admit that bands in the vein of the two aforementioned acts is not my cup of tea, but I still decided to give Vredehammer a go. A decision I would not regret.
The influences on 'Violator' are pretty much all over the extreme metal spectra making it difficult to classify genrewise. The music uses the aggressiveness and repetitiveness of black metal, but incorporates a great deal of technical death metal influences as well as solemn mid-tempo melodies. The rhythm section has one foot evenly in both of these genres, drums grinding and the bass pretty much following the guitar work.
The riffing style blending repetitive black metal tremolo riffs with technical New York death metal ditto is unique and captivating in a fashion difficult to explain. The same can be said about Per Valla's growling vocals. Despite being fairly monotonous Per mercilessly drags the listener through the album amplifying the atmosphere of the music with small means.
What truly makes Vredehammer an entity on its own, apart from the riffing style, are partly the excellent melancholic melodies woven into each song. When the music shifts in an instant from technical aggressiveness to primitive melancholy the transition is smooth and natural giving testimony to excellent songwriting skills.
The other factor making 'Violator' stand out are the distinct identities of each song bearing even more diverse influences than the core of the album. 'Ursus' sees the melodies move to the very front of the music in an almost Amon Amarth fashion whereas the opening half of the title track is as much thrash as death/black metal.
If the individual compositions weren't excellent enough on their own they are wrapped in a distinctly modern production, clear on the surface warranting every instrument it's spot but ice-cold and barren underneath. The production does the job well to accentuate the picture of desolate landscapes with undefined horrors lurking on the coming journey without showing it down the listener's throat.
Despite its diverse influences 'Violator' is coherent enough to be immediately accessible yet with depth enough to stand repeated listens. It is rare to come across an album that is familiar yet unique, repetitive yet versatile, faceted yet focused, accessible yet deep.
The only problem, if there was one, with 'Violator' is the seemingly short playing time. Each song seems to be over before it has started leaving the listener craving for more and more still. The only solution are repeated listening again and again until your ears bleed and your brain turns to mush.