|Review: Vetrar Draugurinn - Hinterlands|
Label: Painted Bass Records
Year released: 2019
Genre: Gothic Metal
Review online: April 20, 2021
Reviewed by: Mjölnir
Rated 4/5 (80%) (3 Votes)
Vetrar Draugurinn (Icelandic for The Winter Ghosts) is a project formed by guitarist Eric Hazelbrook after the demise of his other project The Saturnine. He appears to be well known for his other old band Stream of Passion, but I'm unfamiliar with any of his work outside of this album, so I couldn't tell you if it's worth looking into. What drew me to this project was the fact that Marjan Welman of Autumn fame was on vocals, because when you have arguably one of the greatest singers of our time in your lineup, you either know what you're doing or are about to waste their talent and my time. Thankfully, with their debut album Hinterlands, Vetrar Draugurinn falls in the former category.
This is very much a Gothic Metal album, but not the snappy, commercially viable kind like you'd find coming from Delain or Autumn. No, this is more old-fashioned than that, being much closer to Doom in approach with slow, mournful melodies and heavy, reverbed riffs while still retaining the kind of mood and melodic sensibility you'd find from bands like mid-period Paradise Lost or maybe even Elis to keep it all from being a complete drag. This is all levied by some tight performances and professional songwriting that's a bit more involved than I was expecting, with Eric's guitar work being sharp and capable of being equal parts hooky and atmospheric and Welman sounding as wonderful as ever. She doesn't pull the kind of acrobatics you'd hear in Autumn, but here she gets a chance to dig into her moodier side and gives a powerful and affecting performance that stands as a clear highlight of the band.
The album is split pretty evenly between slower, more contemplative numbers like the opening title track and the lovely "Second" and heavier, more propulsive tracks like the pounding "The Wolves at Our Door" and the hooky album highlight "Death Will Come for Us". I have to say it's the latter style I prefer, as some of the slower songs like "Forever Locked Within" and "The Narrow Path" really start to overstay their welcome by the end, and even the good songs in that style fall short when compared to the others. Still, coming as someone whose sole interest was the vocals, I've found myself to be pretty impressed with this debut, as it manages to avoid most of the pitfalls of its given genre and turn in a superior example of what Gothic Metal at its best can do, even if it could use a kick in the ass from time to time. Not to be missed.
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