(Not long ago Andy Synn reviewed all the full-length albums of The Flight of Sleipnir leading up to their new release — and today he reviews that one.)
If there’s one word that comes to mind when listening to V., the fifth album by blackened bards The Flight of Sleipnir, it’s… refined.
The duo have taken the strongest elements of their previous four albums, filtered them, purified them, and distilled their central essence into fluid, musical form.
The seven songs which make up V. are, on average, longer and more intricate than on previous albums, with a greater sense of light and shade than ever before, their hidden depths and subtle secrets concealed beneath waves of gleaming melody and brilliant metallic clarity.
The fireside ambience of “Headwinds” builds slowly to an impressive conflagration of fiery riffs and electric, elemental tremolo lines, capped off with a smoky, bluesy solo at the song’s grandiose climax, shifting seamlessly into the proggy, Pink Floyd-influenced “Sidereal Course”, where sweet harmonies and celestial guitar leads vie for space with scarred, snarling vocals and thrumming distortion, the latter eventually emerging victorious in the song’s dark and doom-laden second half.
“The Casting” begins as a roiling storm of thundering riffs and flashes of scathing, blackened ire before slipping into calmer, more contemplative waters. Yet this strange, evocative arrangement of ambient acoustic melodies and achingly beautiful ambience is soon enough torn asunder and cast to the winds by a swiftly growing tempest of powerful, driving riffs and scalding, venomous vocals, inundated with a torrent of melancholy, melodic majesty.
The hypnotic strains of lambent melody which begin “Nothing Stands Obscured” glimmer and gleam with a softly-burning light, the song flowing and fluctuating between gorgeous ambient harmony and righteous metallic fury, building to a whirling, mesmerizing conclusion of blazing light and deep, dark shadows.
Patient and progressive, “Gullveig” weaves a glamour of mood and melody out of the ether, drifting along a stream of shimmering drums and radiant guitars, moving effortlessly from elegant ambience to ferocious emotional turmoil — touched here and there by moments of rippling acoustic guitar and soaring, incandescent leads –- while “Archaic Rites” shifts from solemn contemplation and graceful female vocals to a fiery cascade of blazing splendor and alluring, dreamlike doom.
The album’s finale, “Beacon in Black Horizon”, is a suitably epic conclusion, both in terms of its vision and its length, marching relentlessly forward on the back of some frankly mammoth riffs and scorching vocal hooks, intercutting its lurching, doom-laden swagger with teasing diversions of glorious, soaring melody and brooding reflection, leading up to the album’s unexpectedly poignant, a cappella climax.
V. truly is the sound of a band truly coming into their own. A sound honed, burnished, and refined to utter perfection.
V. will be released by Napalm Records on November 24 in North America and December 1 in the UK. The lyric video for “Gullveig” is below.