“When Ice Crowns the Earth” follows hot on the heels of Theudho’s free to download EP, “War into the World”… which is wonderful since it means that I didn’t have to wait too long for my Theudho fix.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this: “When Ice Crowns the Earth” is Theudho’s most impressive album to date. Pagan Black Metal does not come better than this. Fact. While “Treachery”, “The Volsunga Saga” and “Cult of Wotan” all have a lot of amazing moments, it just feels like everything has fallen into place here. All of the elements are working together in a heathen harmony. There’s an air of ‘completeness’. I can’t put my finger on it, but everything just feels right.
As with their previous works, Theudho’s love of Bathory certainly shines through here. However, it’s not a major focus and you soon come to the realisation that Theudho are very much their own entity. Would Theudho be creating music in the way that they do if Bathory never existed? I guess that’s a question that we’ll never be able to answer. Maybe the idea would have naturally popped into Jurgen’s head one day…
The album opens with “War into the World” – the track that also opened the EP of the same name. Back when I reviewed the EP, I mentioned that “War into the World” was fast becoming my favourite Theudho song of all time. This is still the case, but on this album it’s accompanied with such brilliance, that it’s hard to pick a favourite. Anyway, this track really grabs the listener right from the start with its galloping riffs, infectious melodies and a feeling of greatness that’s hard to find these days. Usually when albums are started with a track this good, the rest of the album pales in comparison… Well, I’m pleased to say that this is not the case here.
The title track is wonderful. Really, it is. The lead guitar tone is just beautiful… Seriously, the louder you play it, the better it gets: so turn that dial UP! The combination of spoken word sections and Black Metal vocals work fantastically well and give the track several layers for the listener to enjoy. The tempo is changed at several points throughout the song (accompanied by the differing vocals), making the track an entirely exhilarating listening experience.
“The Second Coming” brings us a more intense and frantic atmosphere. Again, there’s a number of tempo changes; Theudho certainly know how to keep you on your toes. There’s also something about this track that makes me want to find an ancient forest (preferably one untouched by human beings) and get back to nature, as it were. All in all, an incredibly powerful track.
Next up is “Niðr ok Norðr” and, despite my complete failure at pronouncing it, I’ve developed quite an addiction to it. It’s both calming and empowering at the same time. It may sound odd, but the first time I heard it I had a terrific goosebumps-on-the-back-of-the-neck moment when the vocals kicked in. I wouldn’t say that the track was necessarily groundbreaking, but it manages to stir up something very primal within me. Now, if someone would like to help me pronounce its title, that would be rather spiffing.
“Heracleidae (Seevölkersturm) ” really shows off just how talented these guys are and each instrument (and I’m including the vocals in this) manages to shine through. Once again, galloping riffs are the order of the day… and, once again, I wish I could play guitar better (yeah, I know, I should practise more).
“Sacrifice the King” means business. It really sounds like Jurgen is pushing his vocals; particularly at the beginning of the track. You can really feel the passion and force behind them. The spoken vocals also make an appearence and provide a great use of juxtaposition. Oh, and the guitar solo makes me weep tears of joy.
“Lokabrenna” is a track of epic proportions. OK, at just over 7 minutes its not especially long, but musically this instrumental piece is absolutely MASSIVE. There’s a lot going on – this is definitely a track that worth listening to through a good quality pair of headphones.
The whole thing is finished off with “The Straw Death” – a track that picks up the pace, runs rings around the listener and then leaves them stunned.
Too often I find that Pagan Metal comes with a set of gimmicks. Admittedly sometimes gimmicks work and are able to bring new depth to the music, but sometimes I find them tiresome and overdone. Theudho do not rely on gimmicks. You will find no happy trolls dancing around to this (as much as I do enjoy a dancing troll); instead, the music is left to stand on its own. And it does. Magnificently.
“When Ice Crowns the Earth” is one of the first releases of 2012 and it’s certainly getting the year off to a good start. The rest of 2012′s albums better be bringing their A game!
Yep, I’m a fan. What can I say? My only problem with this album is that, now it has been released, I’m going to have to wait a fair while until my next Theudho fix.
Rating: 100% – there, I said it. If I could give it more, I would. Please can someone bring Theudho to the UK for some shows? I’ll give you sweeties… go on…
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