(The living legend himself, Andy Synn, has thoughts about the epic new album from Vanum)
There’s this idea, prevalent among a lot of Metal fans (hell, among music fans in general, let’s be honest) that every band’s newest album has to be better than the one before, otherwise it’s considered a failure.
And I know what you’re thinking… of course it should be better. That’s just the way things should work. Only, no-one ever seems to want to take a moment to stop and think about what exactly “better” means.
Does it mean heavier? Faster? More technical? Does it mean more melodic? More popular? More accessible?
We always say that music isn’t meant to be a competition – but when we do so we’re usually talking about competition between bands, not about bands competing against themselves.
But the older (and, ahem, “wiser”) I get, the more I realise that the point of any album, any piece of art, is not to be “better” than the one which came before it, but to best represent the artist themselves, who they are and what they are trying to say (in whatever medium) at this precise point in their lives.
So when I say that Legend isn’t a “better” album than 2019’s Ageless Fire, I’m also not saying that it’s “worse”. It is, simply put, a perfect companion piece to it’s career-defining predecessor – one which showcases a more morose and melancholy side of the band – and a more than worthy addition to the group’s legacy.
Truth be told, quite a few of you have probably stopped reading now, seeing as how I’ve quite succinctly summed up where this album stands in the opening preamble.
But there’s hopefully some people still reading, and they’re probably looking for – and deserve – a little more insight into the album in advance of its release tomorrow, especially if this is their first exposure to the band.
Stylistically-speaking, while much of Vanum‘s sound continues to hearken back to a more primal, proto-Black Metal age, painting their music with rich shades of Bathory and early Rotting Christ, it’s difficult to think of their music as “classic” or “throwback”, such is the vitality and vigour with which it’s performed.
Perhaps a better term for it would be “timeless”, with the implication being that you could drop this album at pretty much any point in Black Metal’s long (and lurid) history and it would still have the same enduring effect, the same instantaneous impact, on its audience as it’s going to have today.
Of course, the same thing could have been said about their previous album, but what makes this one ever so slightly different is both it’s embrace of more traditional Heavy Metal elements – balancing out the obvious Immortal and Dissection influences with a hefty helping of Iron Maiden and Deep Purple, for example – as well as the moodier (though still majestic) vibe of the music as a whole.
It’s perhaps best to think of it this way… if Ageless Fire was an album of earth and flame, then Legend is an album of wind and water, from the liquid flowing leads which wind their way through triumphant opener “Adversary”, to the lilting, meditative ambience which closes out “Frozen in Vile Illumination”, and beyond.
Sure, the band’s ability to riff and rage, blast and blaze, remains undimmed – “The Gateway and The Key”, for example, is just as aggressive, and just as anthemic, as they’ve ever been – but even the album’s stunning cover art seems to acknowledge that the quartet have moved on, leaving the flaming mountains far behind them as they follow the river of time towards greener pastures.
Nowhere is this more obvious than during the album’s phenomenal finale, “Beneath the Pillars of Air and Earth”, whose blend of gloomy grandeur and introspective intensity finds the band exploring their sound, and expanding their dynamic, to new depths, such that the song’s fourteen-and-a-half minutes comprise their own epic emotional odyssey above and beyond the rest of the record.
Ultimately, then, this album is neither a carbon-copy of its predecessor nor in competition with it.
It’s simply the next step in the band’s ongoing journey.
The next chapter in their story.
And another tale in the legend they are still building for themselves.