It seems as if nowadays, at least here in the United States, the trend in metal is the “viking metal” style of melodic death metal.
Look around at a metal show and try and spot someone that isn’t wearing a mjolnir of some kind. Go ahead, try. You’ll see one, likely within a few seconds. While I wear one daily (for multiple reasons other than metal) this really irritates me. It got to the point that I couldn’t even stand to listen to Amon Amarth, or any of the other multitude of bands out there creating the brand of melodic death metal that people have deemed “viking metal”. It’s not even a band’s fault, it’s merely all of the fans jumping on the latest trend in the scene, much like what happened about ten years ago with black metal (and inverted crosses). But lucky for me, stumbling around on YouTube one day, I found a band that completely turned around my disdain for this style of music. This band was Heathen Foray.
Heathen Foray is a melodic death metal band from Austria. They just released their third full length album, Inner Force, in September of 2013. The band has a surprising look to them, as not one of them is overweight with a giant beard, yet they sound just as big and bad ass as if they were. The general idea of the band is what you would think, fantastical lyrics of mythologies and battles, but the overall sound is what really got my attention. Inner Force is full of seriously heavy, driving, and near thrash-like riffs, combined with galloping drums and bass lines that could knock the heaviest of metal fans on their ass. All the while, the music remains melodic, adorned with clean vocal touches and beautiful choruses. This is a sound I could get used to.
Breaking down the music itself, the kickoff to the album, the title track “Inner Force”, really sets the tone of the album with beautiful acoustic guitar work, all leading into a hard-hitting, groovy metal tune. The harsh vocals pair nicely with the galloping music behind them, but when those clean vocals came in for the chorus, I got the chills. They’re relatively monotone, but the overall roundness and near eerie feel to them is addictive. Don’t even think about asking me to pronounce it, but the third track on the album “Weisheitskrieg” features amazing lead guitar lines that melt so seamlessly into the rhythm of the verse riffs. The vocals are a rough barking style for the majority of the song, but they work really well with the overall drive from the drums. This song is one of my favorites on the album, as it is so in your face, but just like that it’s over and you have to hit replay. Some of my favorite moments on the Inner Force are conversations between the string instruments, thanks to top notch production and the ability to actually hear bass lines (check out “Glut Zu Flamme”). They talk so well, and transition perfectly from the lead, more melodic and soaring sounds, to the extremely fast and dynamic verse riffs. The vocalist also proves a nice range from his harsh cookie-monster style of “Mei Laund” to the beautiful, and much slower beginning to “Wizards Life”. The song picks up into a jaunty death metal tune (bet you never thought you’d see those words together), but that intro with the clean singing and strong vibrato is absolutely chilling. This album is an all around fun melodic death metal album, though the band prefers to call themselves “heathen” metal. There are some repetitive moments and some silly lyrics here and there, but the music is phenomenal and has an amazing ability to make you want to dance and head bang at the same time. For fans of Ensiferum and Amon Amarth especially, you’ll easily get some real enjoyment from the album, so please, support the band!