Monday, January 3, 2011

Album Review: Odroerir - Götterlieder

Odroerir - Götterlieder

Artist: Odroerir (Germany)
Album Title: Götterlieder
Record Label: Einheit Produktionen (Germany)
Released: 2005
Purchased From: CM Distro

There's no way I can be unbiased in this review of Odroerir's second album, Götterlieder, because this is the CD that got me hooked on folk metal. Way back in the days of 2006, when I was expanding my "Viking metal" horizons, I came across the name of a band called Menhir, and, during my exhaustive research of this band (which mainly consisted of consulting the Metal Archives), I discovered that one of the members had a second band called Odroerir. CM Distro had an album by each band in stock and I ordered them at the same time. The one that made the biggest immediate impact on me was the CD by Odroerir, because I hadn't heard anything like it before.

The brief intro, "Ginungagap," which consists of the sound of waves and wind, fades into an acoustic piece called "Weltenanfang." I was already intrigued by the the lovely acoustic guitar and female soprano vocals (something I wasn't quite used to yet, having been listening to a lot of black metal up until this point), which are soon joined by a chorus of male vocals, but then the band ups the ante by richly layering several tracks of vocals in beautiful harmony. I've always been drawn to harmonized vocals, but I had never heard anything quite like this on a metal CD. Actually, to be honest, I still haven't heard another metal band with such immensely satisfying harmonized vocals. Sometimes, after dozens or perhaps hundreds of listens later, I can still get goosebumps when listening to "Weltenanfang," and that's only the second of seven mostly-long tracks. The only reference point I could ever find for the vocals is the Irish folk-turned-New Age band Clannad.

"Weltenanfang" seamlessly shifts into track three, "Wanenkrieg," which introduces metal elements into the album for the first time. The electric guitars are pretty high in the mix. There's some melody there, but they kind of just roughly chug along, except during the tasteful guitar solos. The guitar solos always exist for the greater good of the song. They never sound like someone showing off what they can do. The nicely sung and blended vocals introduced on "Weltenanfang" don't go away when the metal elements are introduced. That is actually what Odroerir's vocals sound like. Sometimes there's a solitary voice singing, but it's never too long before another voice or a chorus of voices joins in. Lyrics are all in German, which is not a language I've ever considered "beautiful" when sung, but they make it work. The lyrics on Götterlieder are all adapted from the Edda, specifically the parts that deal with the earlier days of the universe.

The band is led by Fix, who sings, plays acoustic and electric guitar, and plays flute. Stickel sings and plays acoustic and electric guitar. Philipp returns on drums, Yvonne returns as the soprano vocalist, and Manuel (of fellow Thuringians XIV Dark Centuries) joins the band on bass. Another fine addition to the band is Veit, who plays violin and cello. Violin already played a part on the first Odroerir album, but the band felt it was an important enough element in their sound that they added Veit as a full-time member. And, indeed, I think it adds a lot to the sound.

Even in its metal moments, Odroerir is not a particularly heavy band. Nor do they play very fast. The songs move on at a comfortable, leisurely pace, with the lovely ballad "Ask Und Embla" and much of fifteen-minute closer "Skirnirs Fahrt" giving the album some quieter moments. This is an album that I think even non-metal fans could enjoy, because it lacks so many of the elements that annoy many people about metal. However, these qualities could also limit the enjoyment that some metal fans would get from it. Odroerir has to be approached on their own terms, because there are no other bands, to my knowledge, that sound like them.

Despite my love for this album, I acknowledge that there are still some rough edges that could be smoothed out. The vocals, while mostly well done, are not always perfect. There's a vocal line or two on "Zwergenschmiede" that sounds completely flat to me, and the electric guitars are so loud in the mix that they give many parts on the album a "muddy" sound that I think obscures the softer and more beautiful elements at times. Still, depending on my mood, sometimes I think of the guitars as being "rough hewn" and that it adds to the rural charm of the CD. I don't know. I'm conflicted about them. Still, I absolutely adore Götterlieder, four and a half years after first hearing it. I can't get enough of the violin, the flute, and especially the vocals... man, the vocals!

If there is any downside to this album, it's that, with the exception of Odroerir's 2010 follow-up Götterlieder II, there's nothing quite like it. I spent a lot of time after its release trying to find something else that sounded like it, to no avail. Fortunately Götterlieder stands up to repeat listens, because otherwise it would have worn out its welcome many spins ago. I still enjoy it just as much now as I did when I first discovered it, and I would still recommend it to any fan of true pagan/folk metal who is looking for a serious and mature album that is also a lot of fun.

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