A roaring voice descends from the stormy skies.
The subject of Norse mythology and the historic pursuits of the Viking age have been a common fixture of metal since time immemorial, with the recent cases of the folk and melodic death metal offshoot scenes being among the more consistently fixated on said lyrical themes. One would be remiss to discount the influence that the likes of Unleashed and Amon Amarth have had in bringing the lore of the Scandinavian peninsula to the masses, though from a musical standpoint the more consonant and vernacular character of the sounds put forth by Ensiferum have become more readily associated with the Poetic and Prose Eddas. But whichever way one prefers to receive this popular element of northern European history and culture, the presentation has always been of a literal and straightforward character, often paraphrasing or outright recounting the aforementioned texts or parts of recorded history.
It is in this respect that a newer player out of Helsinki in Brymir stands apart, as while their signature blend of frenetic riffing and grandiose symphonic trappings may ring quite familiar, the accompanying message tends to be of a more nuanced and metaphorical flavor. Having originally been conceived as a cover band in the mid-2000s and going under the name of Lai Lai Hei (inspired by the celebrated Ensiferum song), they’ve built an impressive legacy since the early 2010s with the release of their somewhat derivative yet highly competent debut “Breathe Fire To The Sun.” Taking heavy cues from the dense atmospheric splendor of Equilibrium, but also maintaining a technically-charged metallic assault comparable to the riveting brilliance of Ensiferum’s powerhouse of a 2004 sophomore outing Iron, they quickly began turning heads and despite being frequently compared to both bands, were already forging a unique niche within their adopted sub-genre.
The steady build up of proficiency at their craft would hit a fever-pitch with the astounding 2019 smash and third studio opus “Wings Of Fire,” an album that could easily stand toe to toe with any of the auspicious early albums that undoubtedly influenced it. The winning formula of mad-thrashing and blasting speed, pummeling riff work, folk-tinged melodies and thick keyboards that defined said album have thus been reprised and expanded upon with the release of Brymir’s fourth studio LP “Voices In The Sky.” The chief focus remains quality songwriting, emphasizing the band’s affinity for simple folk melodies and expanding upon them with an intricate mixture of arranging and genre-splicing, with elements of classical and ambient music often being interwoven with a generally fast and aggressive metallic foundation and an array of clean vocal chants and softer atmospheric points to complement the biting guitars and frostbitten growl of helmsman Viktor Gullichsen.
For the most part, the individual songs contained within this 50 minute long musical novel tend towards a swift and compact approach, though often adorned with elaborate introductions and radical shifts in dynamics. The opener and title anthem “Voices In The Sky” sets this tone quite vividly, fleshing out the contrast between folksy acoustic statements and variations of the song’s principle theme and a hyper-paced metallic assault in a highly balanced and infectious fashion, embodying every quality of a banger within the symphonic melodeath style. Similar stories are told with the speed-infused and almost Rhapsody Of Fire-like pomp of “Fly With Me” and the more blast-happy and spacey synth-driven “Landfall”, featuring even more extravagant choral backdrops to accompany Gullichsen’s cold barks and shouts and guitarist Joona Bjorkroth’s wild guitar work. But the well-ordered, infectious crusher that stands just a tad taller among the rest is the cinematic orchestral romp with a mad-galloping edge “Herald Of Aegir”, which also sees Joona’s shred-happy solo work reminding us all why he was subsequently recruited by Battle Beast.
Naturally an album does not live by bangers alone, and variety also proves a vital component of what makes this album punch a hole through the proverbial sky. One variant approach comes in the form of upping the aggression factor by an order of magnitude, with the ferocity of compact crushers like “Forged In War” and “Borderland” rivaling the unbridled intensity of the most brutal players on the melodic side of the death metal coin while still retaining that signature lofty atmosphere. A clue as to what inspired these more harrowing offerings is offered at the album’s tail-end, as a slightly more polished but no less chaotic rendition of Dark Funeral’s “Diabolis Interium” closes things out on an auspiciously high note. However, the other divergence from standard fair in the form of longer and more involved epic musical pursuits proves the more enticing of the two, with the slower-paced trudge mixed with pristine acoustic elements dubbed “All As One”, which rivals Amon Amarth on their home turf, while the mid-paced crunch and synthesizer-filled trappings of “Rift Between Us” proves no less inviting in all its melancholy, Eternal Tears Of Sorrow-influenced glory.
It could be said that regardless of how big a band gets, their only true competition will always be themselves, and this proves to be the best measure of “Voices In The Sky”’s greatness. Relative to Brymir’s still small but growing catalog, it ranks near the very top, only failing to edge out the utter brilliance of its immediate predecessor “Wings Of Fire,” though to be fair there are classic albums out of Equilibrium, Ensiferum and Suidakra that would fail to outdo said album. Between the highly poetic and abstract lyrical sentiments and the elaborate musical webs into which they are woven, this album finds itself as the slightly more complex, yet slightly less riveting successor to this outfit’s 2019 apex. It’s a foregone conclusion that any existing fans of this Finnish staple will not want to miss this, and it is sure to up their standing in the recently revitalized European melodic death metal wave that continues to see winning LPs released every few weeks.
Released By: Napalm Records
Release Date: August 26th, 2022
Genre: Melodic Death Metal | Symphonic Metal
Order “Voices In The Sky” here.
“Voices In The Sky” Track-listing:
- Voices In The Sky
- Forged In War
- Fly With Me
- Herald Of Aegir
- Rift Between Us
- Far From Home
- Seeds Of Downfall
- All As One
- Diabolis Interium (Bonus)
- Viktor Gullichsen / Lead vocals
- Joona Björkroth / Guitars, backing vocals
- Sean Haslam / Guitars
- Jarkko Niemi / Bass, vocals
- Patrik Fält / Drums
Cementing their place as one of the premier melodic death metal acts of Finland’s booming scene, symphonic and folk-tinged masters of epic bombast Brymir reprise the brilliance of their 2019 magnum opus Wings Of Fire with an equally kinetic and slightly more elaborate successor