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Ereb Altor - "By Honour" (CD)

Ereb Altor - "By Honour" CD cover image

"By Honour" track listing:

1. Perennial (4:39)
2. Awakening (8:07)
3. By Honour (8:26)
4. Winter Wonderland (7:21)
5. Dark Nymph (7:03)
6. Wizard (10:24)
7. Ereb Altor (7:21)

Reviewed by on July 28, 2009

"'By Honour' is one of those albums that probably won’t have anyone banging their heads, but it will provide a satisfying metal experience for the crowd that prefers atmosphere to speed or intensity."

There are many times when music doesn’t need to be brutal to be heavy. Sometimes heavy metal needs to fill the role of introspective guide instead of skull crushing barbarian. “By Honour” is one of those albums that probably won’t have anyone banging their heads, but it will provide a satisfying metal experience for the crowd that prefers atmosphere to speed or intensity. While there are a good deal of piano parts sprinkled throughout the album, Ereb Altor isn’t precisely a symphonic metal band. Their slow moving pace combined with their nature and fantasy themes put them more squarely in doom territory, with a touch of Viking style metal.

Ereb Altor’s debut full-length starts off with “Perennial,” which is a solid four minutes of nothing but mood-setting piano. A few of the mournful sounding synths get thrown in at regular intervals to give the song more of a depressing and gothic feel. It’s a great start to the atmosphere of the album, but some metal fans may find the extended introduction a little too much to bear.

The fact that the intro is four minutes long should give an idea of the deliberate nature of the album. Most of the songs range from seven to ten minutes, taking their time to bring up an idea, continue it until its fully worked into the listener’s head, and then finally move on to something slightly different. The songs all move slowly enough to fully qualify for doom status, but there are a few more upbeat and faster moments to keep the interest of people who don’t fully dig the repetition of doom. The repeating riffs and slow chanting throughout the songs actually give the entire album a much more epic feel, which helps support the pagan and Viking feeling.

As an interesting side note to the fantasy themes, “Ereb Altor” was actually the first campaign setting for a Swedish pen and paper role playing game “Drakar och Demoner” (Dragons and Demons). Although that may seem nerdy to some, the idea of a high fantasy land filled with dragons and demons actually fits the music perfectly. There are plenty of moments during the disc that give the feeling of a majestic winged beast gliding over the mountains and oceans of an ancient world.

There are entirely clean vocals on “By Honour,” but the album honestly doesn’t need the growling that might be expected. The steady pace and deep melody of the vocalist’s intonations carry the tracks and further the specific themes of the album. Rage-filled screams would have ruined the atmosphere, and it’s not often that that can be said.

The album ends with the title track, which flirts along the edges of the funeral doom genre with its woeful synth sounds and extremely slow moving pace. The subdued keyboards take full advantage of the echoing moments of silence in between each note to give the song a much stronger overall effect. The song’s build up is slow enough that the listener shouldn’t be expecting the heavy drum beats and distorted guitars that finally come out of nowhere to continue on towards the end.

“By Honour” is an album that requires rapt attention, so there may be some bleed through between the songs for anyone not fully invested in the music. It’s not a visceral or energetic album, but more of a subdued and contemplative one. Fans of doom or Viking metal should enjoy the album enough to give it a shot, while fans of both will probably be in their own private heaven.

Highs: Hits a perfect mood, great mix of doom and Viking style metal.

Lows: Some of the slow moving parts would work better at a faster speed, there is some repitition between songs.

Bottom line: A fantasy-filled doom metal experience with heavy atmosphere. Anyone who can dig the slow moving aspect of doom metal should enjoy this.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)