Thursday, August 1, 2013

Utstøtt - Legender Odin (EP) (2013)

There is something happening in the Pacific Northwest. I'm not sure if it's climate change, the organic food craze, or just some good ol' fashioned change of the tides, but the metal community seems to be swirling and growing by the minute. Much like the grunge movement of the 90's, you ca find damn near anything you want, musically, there. But seldom touched, thus far, has been the American Viking metal movement, for better or worse. Sure, there are bands in the flat 50 states that ahve tried and succeeded, but they are few and far between. Perhaps it takes a special kind of person, from a special kind of place, to make the genre work. Utstøtt, a one man project from Oregon, might be exactly what the Viking doctor ordered. Founded and fronted by Navnløs, you find influences aplenty scattered over these four songs, from Enslaved to Borknagar. But rather than copy or pay homage to bands past and present, this is the start of the future. American Viking might not be a recognized genre yet, but after "Legender Odin," the discussion might have to start.

With the pairing of thunderous double kick drums and rich sythesizers, "Slaget om Odin og Fenrir" quickly launches an album into motion. The instrumental is strong, albeit slightly unbalanced at times. The massive drum sound pushes to the front of the mix, burying the guitars and keys behind a wall of snares and cymbals. For his part, Navnløs makes it all work, pulling together a crispness in the final minute or so. His vocals, though, are consistent throughout; half scream, half gurgle, his voice leads the charge. Like the conductor of an orchestra, he decides the ebb and flow, something he does masterfully on "Fødsel av Valhalla." With a balance now struck between all of the moving parts, it allows him to take freedoms with each instrument. The drumming, in particular, thrives here, adding a plethora of rolls and fills to the soundscape. Guitar melodies, though in short supply, remain catchy and driving. But the glue that holds the entire piece together comes in the background synths, the low notes that stand as a backdrop to the entire track.

Perhaps the most aggressive track on the EP, "Sleipnir sin tur i Livløse Åsene" captures so much of the spirit of blackened folk, bringing to mind some of the best works of Enslaved and Finntroll, all in one six minute package. It's no coincidence that the main riff can be heard loud and clear here, becoming a true lead. What seems chaotic is actually organized meticulously, with every singular entity placed in such a specific way, as to make them all sound like they are in harmony with one another. It should be mentioned that, somehow, Navnløs manages to bend space and time here, making a track on the longer side disappear in a very short blink of an eye. The finale, the epic "Oppstigning av Einherjar," puts all of the previous eggs into one basket. With a strong symphonic presence, and the addition of some more Viking themed drum beats, the first half is an instrumental worthy of any feature film. The second half returns to it's distorted glory, padded out by beautifully atmospheric keyboard work. The hammer comes down on raw metal, literally, taking the track and album to a close.

Navnløs, for all of his hard work and dedication, has put together an EP that seems to fall in the gray area that exists between metal subgenres. It's black metal, but cleaner and crisper; folk metal, but far more aggressive and dynamic; Viking metal, but so much more expansive and broad. Whatever you choose to call it, Utstøtt is a celebration of all things heavy, and all things metal. These four tracks do the name and the vision justice, but it is clear that this is far from the best work to be releases under this moniker. With time, it will grow and evolve; it may take months or years, but this demo is proof enough that the talent, the thought process, and the attention to detail is there for the cultivating. And with a few improvements to the production values, we could be looking back on "Legender Odin" as the rough demo that launched a thousand ships. Keep the sails on your ships spread wide, and your ears to the ground. The new wave of Viking metal might have arrived.


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