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Aurvandil - "Yearning" (CD)

Aurvandil - "Yearning" CD cover image

"Yearning" track listing:

1. Yearning - Prelude (2:23)
2. End Of An Age (5:22)
3. Reign Of Ice I (6:16)
4. A Guide To Northern Scape (7:17)
5. Walking - Interlude (4:36)
6. I Summon Scorn (9:04)
7. Reign Of Ice II (9:28)
8. Gylfi's Journey (9:06)
9. Reaching - Finale (2:26)

Reviewed by on July 27, 2011

"The journey has its moments of glory and awkwardness, the production and bloated instrumentals the cause of the latter, and the end point will cause reflection and satisfaction from those who enjoy this style of metal."

Before one song is played from Aurvandil’s debut “Yearning,” the striking cover art stands out. A man with a heavy cloak and wooden staff treks across a barren mountain, his footprints engraved into mounds of snow. The bleak isolation and the chill of nightfall can be felt right through the portrait. With the industry stepping over to a digital format, there is a dearth of poignant cover art, and “Yearning” certainly fills the void. The black/Viking metal sound Aurvandil performs is the right accompaniment to this artwork.

Aurvandil is a one-man project played by a musician with the same name. He plays all the instruments, though brings in a session drummer to help out with the recording. Whenever a band comprised of one sole member is discussed, the first few questions concern the production value. So, to get that out of the way, the production is effective. The acoustic guitars, which are plentiful, sound great, but the rest of the instruments sound muddy. His vocals lack power and are buried in the music. It’s more than passible, save for the abrupt, amateurish transitions on “Reign of Ice I.”

As mentioned above, acoustic guitars have a pivotal role on almost every song. There’s at least one or two lengthy sections where acoustics set the icy tone, notably on the two “Reign of Ice” tracks and the glorious “Gylfi’s Journey.” Fans of acoustic instrumentals will be happy to learn that there’s not one, not two, but three of them. The five-minute interlude in the middle of the album is the only one that putters, repeating too many ideas to justify its length.

The acoustics give off a folky twang, but “Yearning” has its feet planted in black metal with a major Viking metal attitude. “End Of An Age” is Aurvandil’s equivalent of a deafening anthem, its catchy tempo moving into a heavy stream of noisy blasting and buzzing riffs. The band can get aggressive when required, but most of the album seems to find comfort in a mid-paced arena. With the constant back-and-forth between that and the acoustic passages, there isn’t much downtime to be concerned about.

The last third of the album features a consecutive streak of nine-minute songs signifying the apex of “Yearning.” It has this massive quality to it, like every note has an importance in a greater vision. It will be hard to not have that piece of cover art on the front come into one’s mind throughout the half-hour of music. Out of the three, the aforementioned “Gylfi’s Journey” does the best job of signifying this. It’s a 200 mile trek translated into sonic energy and may exhaust the listener just the same.

Effective black metal with a dose of acoustic reverence is what “Yearning” provides. Aurvandil is great at emitting atmospheric tones, both with the acoustics and with the quiet keyboards in the background. This feels like a complete recording, one that has a destination that takes close to an hour to get to. The journey has its moments of glory and awkwardness, the production and bloated instrumentals the cause of the latter, and the end point will cause reflection and satisfaction from those who enjoy this style of metal.

Highs: Chilly atmosphere, really feels like the album takes the listener on a journey, nice blend of black/Viking metal and acoustic bliss

Lows: Production is typical of one-man projects, a few lengthy acoustic instrumentals that go nowhere, vocals can barely be distinguished

Bottom line: Definitely a record for hardcore fans of both Viking and black metal, as long as one doesn't mind a little acoustic work snuck in there.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

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)