Feb 112010

For those of you who’ve been hoping for a concept album based on the life of Eric the Red, the long wait is over: Thrudvangar has just released their fourth album, Durch Blut und Eis (Through Blood and Ice). Even if you haven’t been waiting for an Eric-the-Red concept album, Durch Blut und Eis is definitely worth checking out anyway.

This seems to be our week for discovering awesome bands that have been around for a while but somehow eluded our notice. Yesterday it was Shining, today it’s Thrudvangar.  This band from the former East Germany takes its name from the mythical home of the Norse thunder god Thor, and as you might expect, they play Viking metal — but a heavily blackened form of the genre. In fact, it might be more accurately descriptive to say it’s Viking-ed black metal.

But before we get to the awesomeness of the music, it’s only fair to say a word about Eric the Red. As Viking explorers go, his story is a good one. (more after the jump, including a song to stream . . . .)

Also called Erik Thorvaldson, he was a storied 10th century Norwegian adventurer who grew up in Iceland after his family was exiled from Norway. Exile seems to have run in the family, because Eric himself was exiled from Iceland for 3 years by a court at Thorness Thing for killing two men in an act of revenge.

He spent those years sailing around and exploring parts of a land mass he later named Greenland.  Following the end of his exile, he took 20 ships and 400-500 people to establish a colony on Greenland.  About 14 ships and 350 colonists survived the journey. Each sea captain claimed a fjord, and Eric settled in Eriksfjord with his wife Thordhild and his four children. In 1002, the colony was ravaged by disease, which took the lives of many settlers, including Eric.

Eric’s story has become the stuff of legend, but even better known is his son Leif Ericsson, who became one of the first Europeans to sail to North America (long before Columbus).

So much for our history lesson. Thrudvangar has set this tale to music, and it’s a hot-shit listening experience. Thrudvangar combines the tremolo picking, percussive style, and overarching keyboards of symphonic black metal with the galloping martial riffs and anthemic melodies of Viking metal. And the unusual combination works beautifully, with seamless transitions between the soaring waves of black-metal sound-wash and compulsively headbangable Viking-metal riffs.

Thrudvangar varies the tempo and emotional resonance of the music as they move from song to song, in what I assume is a design keyed to the story they are telling (I can only assume, because Thrudvangar sings in German and I can barely speak English). The instrumental work is more than capable, and the deep, guttural vocals are ferociously powerful. The songs are threaded with melody and infectious rhythms and are individually distinctive. They hold their own with repeat listening. In two words, highly recommended!

We tried to correlate the song names with what we learned about Eric’s story, and with the help of a friend who speaks German, we thought we’d give you the tracklist and our attempts at English translation (though we’d welcome corrections):

1. Intro
2. Thorvald’s Tod (Thorvald’s Death)
3. Thodhild’s Gunst (Thodhild’s Favor)
4. Habichtstal
5. Leif – Der Gewalten Gabe (Leif — Of the Violent Offering)
6. Holmgang (The Way to Holm)
7. Lüge, Verrat und Meineid (Lies, Treachery, and Perjury)
8. Ochseninsel (Ox Island)
9. Der Schwerter Klingen (The Sounds of the Swords)
10. Thornesthing
11. Überfahrt (Crossing)
12. Am Ende eines Fjords (At the End of a Fjord)
13. Sein letzter Ritt (His Last Ride)

Without further ado, here’s a cut from Durch Blut und Eis.  And if you like what you hear, if you want to hear more, and if you’re willing to support this talented band with a few of your dollars, you can buy the album here.

Thrudvangar: Habichtstal

P.S. Another Viking-metal band, Tyr, released an album in 2003 called Eric the Red — though as far as we can tell, only one track on the album was about the famous adventurer.

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