There is a visceral appeal to blackened death metal, especially when it comes with angular riffs, punchy choruses, and a sense of human despair that only the Gods can match. Few records capture the essence of a genre like Vredehammer's Violator, which manages to invoke something greater than themselves in this seven track epic that distills the band's balls out madness. Violator is one of the few albums released this year that properly captures the demonic fury that makes the genre so exciting. It takes the thrashier elements of blackened death metal, injects a little bit of their trademark Norwegian Black Metal bombast, and allows Vredehammer to come out as masters of their own reality.
Five releases (and two full lengths) into their career, Vredehammer have started to perfect their sound. The song "Deadfall," with its hectic riffing, nicely contrasts the more epic moments that you will uncover throughout the album. The ferocity of Per Valla's vocals are far beyond anything the band has done in the past, taking the band's attack to a whole new level. Though things have always been intense in the Vredehammer camp, now the band is exploding with primal, destructive rock and roll energy. And I do mean rock and roll energy. There is something almost hooky about this record; it could function as a thrash metal kid's introduction to black metal… and given my love for both genres, it only further cements Violator's place in my heart.
Nevertheless, Violator has its limitations. As much as I enjoy this record, there are moments that feel sectional and some of the changes are a little awkward. Sometimes the orchestrations are obsequious and clash with the more stripped down, almost Destroyer 666-esque moments. It shows us that, as great as Vredehammer has become, the band is still growing and has a lot to learn. That being said, I kind of enjoy the fact that in 2016 we can listen to a blackened death metal record that features a handful of riffs that wouldn't feel out of place on a power metal record (If you don't believe me, just give "Ursus" a spin) and the diversity – when handled appropriately – is a lot of fun. It portends a bold future for Norway's twisted children.
Simply put, Vredehammer has put out an absolute motherfucker of a blackened death metal record. The way that they invoke the classic terror, latent madness, and inherent bombast that encapsulates the genre in such a concise and well executed format speaks to the excellence of this band. Vredehammer are a step beyond almost all of their peers in terms of songwriting, with a distinct aesthetic that has no problem borrowing from any metal subgenre it pleases in order to contribute to the album as a whole. That might sound campy, but when it comes together, you get moments of epic, high energy, synth-padded black metal madness that you can't help but raise the horns to. Violator is a simply insane listen, and if you love blackened death then you had better get on it.