Though admittedly short, this Norwegian black/death act's second full-length is something that I feel definitely caught me by surprise due to all of it's sheer badassery. These guys cannot only play a ripping blend of black, death, melodic and thrash metal, they also showcase that they have skills where it counts, which sometimes come in the form of absolutely stereoscopic guitar solos. Take the first track, “Light The Fucking Sky” for example. The ungodly melodic solo pieces used there remind me of twinkling stars, or what I like to call “night time solos.” Despite the fact that the piece is additionally ungodly heavy, it also contains such a masterful and rather classy section within that air of night that you just wouldn't expect. Especially when the song that comes right after (Spawn Tyrant) literally threatens to bash your skull in.
Upon looking at the man responsible for most (but not all) of this awesomeness, I see that mastermind Per Valla is also in Allfader, which from what I recall was yet another awesome band. They came out with a record back in 2011 called Black Blood Flux, and that was one of my favorite albums of that particular year. It's Viking metal, but far more entertaining than the bland junk that Amon Amarth have been putting out as of late. It makes perfect sense that Valla would continue that awesomeness in this other act, and it's especially refreshing to see that he his skills are just as sharp as ever. Take the black thrasher that composes this record's title track, and you'll once again see why I have such praise for this man and his body of work.
I do need to reiterate that while Valla can literally write solos that lift you twenty feet up in the air, the band is only strengthened by such a strong arm on the drums (Felix) and hefty bass lines that add more meat and muscle to the performance (Stone.) Stone in particular really gives the kit a pounding, which makes so many of these pieces sound much more furious in the mix. He's the kind of drummer you want in this kind of act, playing as if he's played for decades, despite the fact that he's only been in prog-deathers Canvas Black beforehand. I guess Valla just listened to the guy and knew he would be a perfect fit for the band, and lo and behold he is. Vredehammer still utilize a lot of things that we might expect to hear on one single album, including grim tremolos, bits of progression and technicality (Deadfall) as well as melodic death metal pieces like “Ursus” that remind a lot of the stuff that Amon Amarth used to do, back when they were more concerned about structures instead of commercial viability.
Violator is certainly a finely structured album, and I think that it'll appeal to many different types of metal fans, regardless of what your favorite sub-genre might be. Each one of these seven songs are played beautifully, with no need for extra bonus tracks or B-Sides. Vredehammer literally gave you the very best that they could offer and felt that you'd get exactly what you were after in a mere thirty minutes of playing time. I could justify this as a shortlist record, but I didn't feel that it could wait until tomorrow's shortlist post and had to be brought to your attention today. You know, I think I've listened to this thing about five times already and I can honestly see myself listening to it about five more. It's just the kind of record that I feel delivers on all fronts and is the literal definition of a near-perfect heavy metal album.
I haven't heard much from Valla since Black Blood Flux and didn't even know that this band released a debut (Vinteroffer) back in 2014, but I can honestly say that Violator does what I haven't heard from a lot of bands in the black/death scene lately, and that makes them a cut above the rest. Vredehammer just play metal. Call it black, death, melodic, technical, whatever – it's just really satisfying and I'd recommend it to anyone.
(7 Tracks, 34:00)