Helrunar - _Sól_
(Lupus Lounge / Prophecy Productions, 2011)
by: Pedro Azevedo (8.5 out of 10)
German black metal act Helrunar have been steadily progressing since I first heard them on their second full-length, _Frostnacht_. Where its successor _Baldr Ok Íss_ was already a thoroughly competent record however, _Sól_ may well turn out to be their defining album.

_Sól_ is actually made up of two separate albums, _Sól I - Der Dorn im Nebel_ and _Sól II - Zweige der Erinnerung_, which may either be purchased separately, or together as a double CD. At this point, most seasoned veterans out there will probably produce a derisory snort, dismissing _Sól_ as a pretentious and excessively ambitious record, likely inflated to twice its useful length. In most cases that would not be far from the truth; in quite a few of those, it might even be exactly right. But as you may have gleaned from my 8.5 rating by now, I do not believe _Sól_ belongs in that category.

Helrunar have opted against using the second disc to create an entirely acoustic or atmospheric companion to their standard black metal album. There is still some difference in the band's general approach between the two discs: the second one comes across as having more slow sections, and seems less conventional for a black metal album -- though certainly not any worse than the first half. It should still be clear that such a quantity of material in a similar vein does require considerable appreciation of said approach. In this case, that means lengthy compositions of icy but well produced black metal, with a good mix of faster and slower sections, harsher and more melodic segments, and a penchant for acoustic and atmospheric breaks. If this sounds like it may be your thing, then what _Sól_ does is give you a lot to chew on. Their songwriting is strong enough to support not only the length of each song, but also the fact that there are seven songs in total between the seven and eleven minute mark -- plus three other 'small' ones around five or six minutes each, and five preludes and interludes.

On both discs, Helrunar show little difficulty in producing compelling black metal, and compared to their past work, they show improvements throughout. By virtue of their crafty marriage of a cold atmosphere to a strong production, their music fulfills its potential instead of leaving you tired after sifting through half of the first disc. Of course not every minute of all this is absolutely top notch material, but the fact that one can clearly understand why they had to opt for two discs by listening to _Sól_ serves to illustrate their achievement.

Contact: http://www.prophecyproductions.de

(article published 26/2/2011)


ALBUMS
3/11/2008 P Azevedo 8 Helrunar - Baldr ok Íss
10/10/2005 P Azevedo 7.5 Helrunar - Frostnacht
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