Monday, January 3, 2011

Album Review: Odroerir - Götterlieder II

Odroerir - Götterlieder II

Artist: Odroerir (Germany)
Album Title: Götterlieder II
Record Label: Einheit Produktionen (Germany)
Released: 2010
Purchased From: The Omega Order

Götterlieder II was my most anticipated CD of 2010, in any genre. As it neared release I was excited but also a bit nervous. I couldn't imagine how Odroerir could top their 2005 masterpiece Götterlieder. I was worried that the band might drop the rich vocal harmonies that was my favorite element of their sound, or that they would make some other large change to their sound that would cause them to lose their identity in the sea of folk metal bands that had emerged since 2005. Fortunately, my nervousness was unwarranted. Odroerir has returned with an excellent follow-up to Götterlieder and has managed to improve and progress in many ways.

First of all, the harmonized, layered vocals are back, and they're even more prominent than before. The layers don't seem to be quite as thick as they were at certain points on Götterlieder, but they sound more confident and polished than before. Maybe all the touring they did between 2005 and 2010 helped in that area. The vocals tend to be the focal point of the songs, especially on tracks like "Idunas Äpfel."

That is not to say that the instruments have been given any less attention. Band leader Fix not only sings and plays electric and acoustic guitars, but this time he also plays various percussion instruments, mandolin, mandola, zister, flute, tin whistle, and Jews harp. Stickel returns on vocals and guitar, Manuel and Philipp return on bass and drums, respectively, and Veit plays violin and cello and also contributes vocals this time around. The new addition to the band is vocalist Natalie, who has a very nice voice and will likely be seen as superior to previous vocalist Yvonne (though I enjoyed Yvonne's vocals as well). The band uses mandolin and the other stringed instruments in the place of the acoustic guitar during many parts of the album, which gives them a somewhat less accessible sound than before, in my opinion.

The lyrics on Götterlieder II, again, are adapted from the Edda, and are all in German. As I said in my review of the previous album, I don't usually think of German as a beautiful-sounding language, but bands like Odroerir and Carved In Stone have been able to convince me otherwise, at least for a while. Anyone who doubts should give "Idunas Äpfel" a listen, because it's a staggeringly beautiful song and the highlight of the album for me.

The songs alternate between more metal-oriented and softer acoustic songs, with four "metal" tracks and three "acoustic" tracks, though even the metal songs have softer elements to them. The first track, "Heimdall," begins with the sound of someone walking, followed by a horn sound (played by Manuel, it appears) and a nice little instrumental folk section. At this point new listeners might think they picked up the wrong album, but after about two minutes the metal elements appear. Not that, even once that happens, anyone will mistake Odroerir for being any other band. The sound of mandolin (or mandola?) and flute continues even after the electric guitars appear, and then you hear the vocals, which are not quite like anything I've heard in folk metal. They are not "flashy" or modern-sounding (these are not power metal vocals). They are what I would describe as the vocals that could be found in traditional folk music, except perhaps for the harmonizing, and perfectly complement the atmosphere that Odroerir is creating. The listener will get a good idea of what this band is all about after listening to the first track, and will probably decide at this point whether or not Odroerir is for them. Some will not enjoy it, but I think many will if they give it a chance.

"Heimdall" is followed by the short but sweet acoustic track "Bifröst." As the next track, "Des Thors Hammer Heimholung," begins, I finally hear the familiar baritone vocals (Stickel?) that remind me of the lead male vocals on the first two albums. For whatever reason, they're not as prominent on Götterlieder II as a whole. Again, a mandolin plays throughout the song even when the electric guitars are present, which I think gives the album an all-encompassing "folk" sound that gives me the impression of Odroerir being a folk band that happens to incorporate metal into their music, rather than the other way around.

The long acoustic track "Idunas Äpfel" follows, and on this track Natalie is given a chance to shine. This is a very vocal-centric song, and a very powerful one, despite not being metal in any way. "Skadis Rache," for the first time since Odroerir's 2002 debut, has some shrieked black metal vocals, but only a little. The violin plays a prominent role in this track, and there's a nice guitar solo as well. The next all-acoustic track, "Der Riesenbaumeister" contains what I think is the mandola, and there's also some nice hand percussion. The final track, the nineteen-minute long hymn to Odin, "Allvater," reminds me quite a bit of "Skirnirs Fahrt" from the first Götterlieder, though not quite as satisfying, in my opinion. It is a very good song and an epic and reverent way to close the album, however. It contains probably the most technical lead guitar work on the album (though this of course is relatively speaking), as well as some great violin and cello work.

It's difficult for me to do justice to a band like Odroerir, and an album like Götterlieder II, by using words. There are some very talented writers that might be able to, but I'm not one of them. It's simply a beautiful album. I don't expect that it will get a lot of praise from metal critics, mainly because it's such a different album that is difficult to describe or categorize, and may not contain enough "metal" elements to satisfy some fans, even fans of pagan/folk metal. But that's part of the appeal of Odroerir. They're in a category of their own. They are Odroerir. And they're one of my favorite bands in the genre, for what it's worth.

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