Tag Archives: 1995

In the Woods… – HEart of the Ages

A Black MEtal CLassic!
A Black MEtal CLassic!

I wish I’d heard HEart of the Ages when it was released. Mixing extreme metal with prog and folk hardly seems all that audacious now but when In the Woods…’ debut album came out in 1995 this was a leap forward for black metal. There were similar attempts from Ulver and Primordial in the same year but, even compared to those great albums, HEart of the Ages sounds more forward-thinking and groundbreaking. 21 years later their style might not seem as startling but the music still has a fresh zing of originality and there’s plenty to love in its combination of Burzumic shrieking, melancholic doom, heathen folk and Floyd/Crimson soundscapes. Latecomers should buy the recent Heart of the Woods box set for a particularly plush version of the album. The Norwegians are also due to return later in 2016 with their reunion album Pure. If like me, you’ve missed out on In the Woods…, now is a great time to get involved.

[In the Woods… – HEart of the Ages]

Plush box set from Debemur Morti Productions
Plush box set from Debemur Morti Productions

Ulver – Bergtatt [Et Eeventyr i 5 Capitler]

Warning: Trolls
Warning: Trolls

Bergtatt, the title of Ulver’s 1995 debut, doesn’t seem to have an exact translation to English. In the album’s liner notes it’s translated as both “Spellbound” and “Mountain-taken” which is the literal translation*. It’s a Norwegian term for people (usually maidens I imagine) that have been lured into the hills by particularly alluring trolls and other assorted faerie folk, never to return! The music is appropriately seductive, alluring and magical: the album is laden with dreamy acoustic guitars, flutes and soothing Gregorian chant singing. There’s excellent, raw black metal throughout as well but, even then, the orchestrated layers of guitar don’t shatter the dreamy allure: Ulver aiming for a panoramic, classical vibe rather than the usual evil aggression. It’s a debut so fully realised that the band immediately moved on from the style but Bergtatt has proven to be inescapably influential. In 1995 this was a unique album but so many bands have followed in its dreamy, progressive footsteps since that, if it was released today, it would be more relevant than ever. It’s ageless rock n troll.

*In English the full album title is Mountain-taken: A Fairy Tale in 5 Chapters

[Ulver – Capitel I: I Troldskog Faren Vild or Chapter I : Lost in a Forest of Trolls]

A Troll: Alluring and Seductive
A Troll: Alluring and Seductive

Primordial – Imrama

Primordial - Imrama (1995) Original Cover
Primordial – Imrama (1995) Original Cover

When Primordial released their debut album Imrama they hadn’t yet discovered the unique and powerful heathen metal approach they’re now revered for. It’s easy to overlook Imrama, then, but you shouldn’t: all the pointers to their future greatness are here. And as a bonus you get to play “spot the influence” too. Always fun. There’s a much more prominent black metal attack on this than on later efforts and also a gothic mournfulness which reminds me of the early Anathema stuff. A.A. Nemtheanga also throws in some neat Martin Walkyier “chaarggee-AH” type vocals too which always wins points from me! And there’s that rolling, strummy folkiness in tracks like Fuil Ársa that would be become the band’s staple in future years. So it’s all here really, just rejigged, refocused, refined and perfected in later releases. An interesting and promising debut from a band headed for greatness. On last night’s train journey from Ayr to Glasgow this went down especially well: the folkiness was ideal for the beautiful sunset view of Arran, and the rough, charging black metal was perfect for drowning out all the drunken revellers heading back home from a day at the races.

[Primordial -Let the Sun Set on Life Forever]

Cover of Metal Blade's sweet reissue
Cover of Metal Blade’s sweet reissue