Árstíðir Lífsins is a band that is probably not on everyone’s radar in the current metal climate. However, their sound is one that demands attention. Take a beautiful pagan/folk metal background, add in heavy helpings of black metal with post metal and prog leanings, and that’s a good indication of where the sound is at. I find the groups sound to be comparable to a cross between Enslaved and Wardruna, which is very complimentary by my standards.
What is given to us on this two-song EP (EP only by the limited number of songs, but not in the sense of the over 40 minutes in length of the actual release, which is a full album by a lot of bands standards) is a weighty and very heavy (not necessarily in the way you’re thinking) barrage. The Icelandic/German group weaves an intricate tale on “Heljarkviða” of Viking lore, moving through a story of death and rebirth. And the songs capture the emotion and intense storytelling with dramatic influence.
“Heljarkvida I – A Helvegi” sets the historic scene with scattered violin and horns doomily accenting the gently falling rain. After a few minutes, the depressive atmosphere adds a chorus of gothic baritone chants which serve as the pre-emptive calm before the storm as a blasting black metal force engulfs the entire ambiance. Trade-offs with traditional black vocals and deep folk chants work well together and give the song a very grand and triumphant sound. The song weaves back and forth from defiant and bombastic to beautifully melancholy. The 20-minute length of the song is over before I know it, showing the attachment the song has given me.
“Heljarkvida II – Helgrindr Brotnar” takes a direct approach at the start with a black onslaught. Much like the previous song, this track weaves through 20 minutes of traditional and current sounds, weaving pagan folk with black metal. The song closes the story with the same chillingly beautiful yet depressive violins that started off the EP, rounding out the monumental depth and weight of this huge sound.
While incredibly involved and painstakingly crafted, the music is very weighty and requires a good amount of time to take in the full atmospheric concept of this pagan black metal journey. This isn’t the type of music you can just throw on casually. It requires that the listener pay unique attention to all the little details without losing the big picture of what all those moments make up in the overall sound. For these reasons, I can assure some of you that this music won’t necessarily appeal to you. I for one can’t see myself having this EP on repeat continually just based on how heavy the listening process is. That’s one of the only negatives I can find with this release. And honestly, this has taken a while to grow on me, and it does a little more with repeated listens, which is a good sign. But I can honestly say that when I want an authentic Viking journey set to music, I’m pretty sure that this music will be on my radar more often than not.
01. Heljarkviða I: Á helvegi
02. Heljarkviða II: Helgrindr brotnar
Playing time: 40:52
Release date: 27 January, 2017
Label: Ván Records
Website: Official Arstidir Lifsins Website