Old Norse mythology gets a modern re-telling.
Árstíðir lífsins (pronounced Aours-teeth-ir Leef-sins) are a Icelandic/German band with a penchant for the old world.The band name means ”The Seasons of Life” in Icelandic and the band exude Old Norse mythology and history from every fibre of their being.
This album, the translation of which is Óðinn and the God of the Monks, is the 3rd full release from the band and may well be, in the fullness of time, be regarded as their magnum opus. The band have gone into this without compromise and that is reflected in the vocals which are sung entirely in the Old Norse language. The album recreates in vivid detail the harsh Icelandic Middle Ages. The music conjures images of harsh winters in mountainous regions whilst battles are fought.
Each track ebbs and flows, almost with the wind, as one moment you encounter powerful, almost demonic vocals whilst being battered by a raging sea of double-bass infused blackened metal. However, before you know it the storm subsides and a relative peace and calm appears manifesting through the ambient, classical and monastic passages. It’s not long before the storm rages again though and so it continues throughout the length of the album.
At it’s best the album should be consumed as a whole, but that does not mean that individual track cannot be heard and enjoyed out of context. The pure Black Metal fury of a track like “Úlfs veðrit er ið CMXCIX” works perfectly with the more lucid, tribal and evocative “Tími er kominn at kveða fyrir þér”. Given the subject matter you can make a wild guess at the content of the spoken word passages without knowing for sure what is being said. What you will understand is the craftsmanship and commitment of the band and it’s dedication to making this album stand out from the crowd. It succeeds on all levels.
As far as music being based on mythology or even history then this is well and truly a standard bearer. In fact any band looking to look to the past to create a future should be looking at this album for inspiration. A quick refresher on your Scandinavian history would prove useful but not essential to appreciate the power and beauty of this album.
Aldafoðr ok munka dróttinnis is undoubtedly one of the finest and most unexpected pleasures Maximum Volume has had the fortune to hear in a long time.
Donnie’s Rating: 9/10
1 Kastar heljar brenna fjarri ofan Onundarfirðinum
2 Knorr siglandi birtisk á löngu bláu yfirborði
3 Þeir heilags dóms hirðar
4 Úlfs veðrit er ið CMXCIX
5 Máni, bróðir Sólar ok Mundilfara
1 Tími er kominn at kveða fyrir þér
2 Norðsæta gætis, herforingja Ormsins langa
3 Bituls skokra benvargs hreggjar á sér stað
4 Sem lengsk vánar lopts ljósgimu hvarfs dregr nærri