"Baldr Ok Iss"

(Prophecy Productions/Lupus Lounge)

01. Dickichtgott
02. Loka Lögsaga
03. Schwarzer Frost
04. Baldr
05. Íss
06. Winter
07. Glámr
08. Hunta and Boga
09. Til Jarðar
10. Baldrs Drauma

RATING: 8/10

When Germany's "eerie-emotional music" and black metal (provided by sub-label, Lupus Lounge) label, Prophecy Productions, crossed the pond and set up shop here in North America, a new wave of extremity was introduced to horn-raisers and hellions from coast to coast. With a dynamic roster that can appease the appetites of fans from everything to experimental dementia to dark indie music, Prophecy has something for everyone, but if high-caliber blackened brutality is your bag, then HELRUNAR is your band.

While their 2005 full-length debut (the band had previously released a demo and a split with NACHTMAHR), "Frostnatch", served them well to the global community, the chilling intensity and morose musicality of "Baldr Ok Iss" is bound to increase their credibility tenfold. What sets HELRUNAR apart from many of their peers in the black metal community doesn't have as much to do with the band's style. The hellish/Nordic sound wrapped in a shadow of darkness and delivered with precision playing and quality production that comes from the influence of pioneers such as MAYHEM and BURZUM as well more contemporary nihilism found on the early works of DIMMU BORGIR (sans the symphony and cinema) produced by HELRUNAR can be heard on the works of a number of Pagan black metallers. What catapults HELRUNAR into the upper-echelon of the genre is not only the trio's penchant for crafting and arranging a memorable tune, but also the manner in which the album flows gives the impression that "Baldr Ok Iss" is much more of a neo-mythological tale than it is a series of speed-addled riffs split up by melodious, acoustic interludes. The juxtaposition of clean and heavy guitars backed by the militant march of a snare drum on "Dickichtgott" gives little warning to the breakneck explosiveness heard when "Loka Logsaga" kicks in. While speed and brutality dominate the aforementioned tune and others, ("Iss" being a good example), guitarist Dionysus demonstrates his ability to employ melody, sometimes morbid, other times tuneful, within his richly layered chord progressions and methodic grooves. "Schwarzer Forst" and "Hunta And Boga" provide a more calculated, doom-laden brand of brutality than their blast-beat driven counterparts. The album's biggest surprise, however, is "Til Jardar". Built around a fully-strummed, major key progression, this standout owes as much to emotive indie rock as it does to extreme metal; yet the song is still one hundred percent HELRUNAR.

It's this ability to be diverse, without straying from their core sound that makes HELRUNAR one of the most formidable acts in the black metal scene today. With intelligent and accessible, yet undeniable metal, songwriting that captures the archaic spirit of the rune worshippers that populated the band's icy homeland, "Balrd Ok Iss" is an asset to anyone's collection.


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