Anyone who thinks that Black Metal is a conservative and formulaic sound need only look at (amongst the plethora of progressive and avant-garde entities) Norwegian’s Vreid and how have incorporated outside and wider aspects into their black metal fabric. Whilst that more typical black metal sound is firmly at the band’s core, their willingness to bring in the sounds of Hard Rock and sixties and seventies influence has afforded them the “Black n’ Roll” moniker and thus helps them stand out in some capacity to many of their peers. Following on in this trend, eighth album, and first on Season Of Mist, Lifehunger is not only one of their strongest to date, but possibly the easiest of their catalogue to break into.
The clean, brooding intro of ‘Flowers & Blood’ is a fairly standard type of atmospheric opening and delivers a sense of melancholy leading into the lead single ‘One Hundred Years’, the most archetypal black metal song on the album, complete with piercing vocals, blistering pace and blastbeats alongside a prominent melodic sense, particularly in its brief guitar solo work.
It doesn’t take long for the further influences to rear their head, however, with the title track having a muscular opening groove which feels reminiscent of the likes of Testament, albeit through a blackened filter. Elsewhere ‘The Dead White’ shows some clear Judas Priest worship with some of its more stripped back riffing, whilst ‘Hello Darkness’ offers an eerie and off-kilter tone with its warped, psychedelic meets Blue Oyster Cult delivery.
Vreid has a knack for a wide and ever-diversifying sound whilst managing to bring it all together without feeling scattershot or bolted together, and Lifehunger manages to be both one of the band’s most eclectic yet cohesive works to date, balancing ferocity with catchiness and fun that black metal is often believed to shun by definition. Vreid may often feel a little overlooked but their catalogue has regularly proven that they give something substantially different to many of their peers, and with luck, this should prove and important album for them in terms of gaining a wider audience.