Heimdalls Wacht brings diversity and depth to the concept of what is and what is not the pagan strain of “black metal” with their fifth album, Ekte Westfäölske Svatte Metal. Unconstrained melodic pagan metal and lyrics that explore themes of regional and ancestral pride propel this recording from its unsettling warlike beginning to its hauntingly patriotic conclusion. Ekte Westfäölske Svatte Metal is a thoroughly satisfying listen, never boring, and full of unexpected musical twists.
Skilled shred-work features prominently on this guitar-driven recording. In between anthemic aural assaults, Heimdalls Wacht gives the listener a little break with quietly plucked and strummed instrumentals. Gang-style vocals involving a growled point to a clean chorus counterpoint—as well as tandem male leads—deliver the lyrics. Although not particularly close to pitch-perfect, the vocals fit the music well enough, ranging from battle howls and shrieks to low guttural gurgles, muttered predominantly in German.
The rhythm section remains solid and mostly unobtrusive. There are a few places, however, where the underlying rhythm surges to the fore in unexpected, almost funky ways, and I mean funky as in funk music, not as in awkward. I had to restrain myself (and then I didn’t) from fist pumping during the refrain of “Ein Ächzen im verlassenen Stollen” (“A Groan in the Abandoned Tunnels”).
Tribal drumming sets the tone for “Ich bin der Widersacher” (“I am the Adversary”), which is probably one of the most lyrically interesting tunes on the album. The vocal style in this song is unfortunately a bit whiny, being a style that is more squawked and screamed than sung, which I’m not particularly fond of. However, the song can’t lose with lyrics that wax poetic like, “I am the errors in your system, I am the solution of each equation, I am the chaos in your failure.” It loses nothing in translation. This track reminds me of some of Taake’s wonderful meandering musical tomes, which is clearly a positive as any comparison to Taake would be.
“Geheimbund” (“Secret Society”) came off as … surprising. For some reason, the guitar riff and structure on the track is reminiscent of the ’90s rock band the Offspring (yes, as in the band from Huntington Beach, California that wrote such celebrated mainstream pop-punk anthems as “Self Esteem,” “Gotta Get Away,” and “Pretty Fly (for a White Guy)”—you can imagine my disbelief). Despite the cartoonish vibe of this tune, I found myself listening to it repeatedly. I suppose the ultimate message to take away from this track is that it’s okay to have fun, even if you are wearing corpse paint and your album cover features band members flipping the bird.
“Exil” is reminiscent of the Satanic Warmaster track “Burning Eyes of the Werewolf,” which, much like the Taake reference earlier, means Heimdalls Wacht have won me over here. Ekte Westfäölske Svatte Metal clearly deserves more attention than it received when it was released several years ago in November 2012 on Heidens Hart, hence its presence here after so much time. Bookending the album is an impressive hidden-track cover of Unleashed’s “Open Wide,” which makes for a ripping conclusion to a solid work of Germanic pagan black metal.
02) Ekte Westfäölske Svatte Metal
03) Unsiälige Kiär
04) Ich bin der Widersacher
06) Der verschüttete Grubenmann
07) Tiwaz – Entflammt
08) Die Formulierung des Unformulierten
09) Das Martyrium
10) Ein Ächzen im verlassenen Stollen
12) Alles ist Grau
14) Open Wide