Uit een diepe winterslaap, bemost en overwoekerd
Staan de reuzen op en grijpen naar de macht
Hongerig naar mensenbloed verwoesten zij de dorpen
Waar men weerstand biedt
Gevallen in de nacht
Already before the Mead & Greed Festival 2022, I had dealt with Vanaheim‘s first studio album Een verloren verhaal. However, due to a large pile of promos, this happened rather on the sidelines and I decided to convince myself of the qualities of the quartet from Tilburg live in Oberhausen. Since the band was supposed to be on stage on both days as a result of the cancellation of another act, there was plenty of opportunity to do so. Looking back, I can say: Fortunately!
Vanaheim, in fact, figuratively burned off fabulous fireworks on stage: their two performances were, in Aidan’s and my eyes, by far the most impressive we had the pleasure of witnessing at the Resonanzwerk on the first weekend in April. The energy of the guys from Noord-Brabant was infectious – and the songs from the aforementioned release and the debut EP The House Spirit (2017) exuded a forceful epic pagan magic that very few artists can create. No wonder my colleague and I hit the Vanaheim merchandise stall afterwards to pick up a souvenir or two. It’s been a long time since I fell in love with a band so quickly…
It is also obvious to honour their latest output Een verloren verhaal with a review on the Epic Metal Blog. The fact that the band growls and (sometimes) sings in Dutch on this album, unlike on their EP released five years earlier, appeals to me very much: because of my job, I have been dealing with this language for more than a decade, which is why I have grown very fond of it in the meantime – a reason why I also appreciate Heidevolk, for example. In this respect, Vanaheim were already in the lead with 1:0.
Speaking of the vocals: What Zino van Leerdam delivers on Een verloren verhaal is simply impressive. His clear vocals are fine, his growls are world class! The fact that he also proved to be an exceptionally skilled, charismatic frontman at the Mead & Greed Festival, who can really captivate the crowd, rounds things off brilliantly. For me, Zino is definitely one of the most exciting musical discoveries of the year!
The latter, of course, applies to the entire band: Rarely has an album stirred me emotionally as much as their first full-length. The gorgeous artwork by Julian Bauer already transports the listener into a distant fantasy world, about whose centuries-old secrets Vanaheim tell – in really well-done, sophisticated lyrics. The first time I listened to the album, I was a little put off by the symphonic elements in the sound – in the meantime I consider them an essential part I would not want to miss out on. Whoever is a bit afraid of kitsch because of this, or also generally in view of the quite colourful cover or the genre label “epic pagan metal“, be reassured: The band from the Netherlands provides atmospheric moments, sometimes – as in “Rusteloos” and “Verloren“ – also (skilfully) serves folk fans, but on the whole never misses a healthy heaviness with rough edges. Combined with the consistently great melodies – just listen to the fabulous “Reuzenspraak“! – this is really great cinema for gourmets. By the way: The cinematic staging of the songs reinforces the escapist effect of the album – I always particularly appreciate something like that.
For me, Een verloren verhaal deserves the label “perfect“. You can feel the unbridled passion with which Zino, Michael van Eck (guitar), Mike Seidel (bass) and Bram Trommelen (drums) go to work. Their songwriting reaches a depth and a richness of facets that you can’t believe you’re listening to their very first full-length album. There are moments when you are simply overwhelmed (in a purely positive sense) – the sublimity of the epic closing track “Gevallen in de nacht“ alone makes your jaw drop: The eleven minutes fly by and you just want to press the repeat button after the last notes – already a hot candidate for the title “Song of the Year“! That Een verloren verhaal as a whole, and you have to look at it as a holistic work, will have a realistic chance of taking the throne in my album ranking is evident in view of what I said above.
Conclusion: Vanaheim leave almost all their competitors miles behind in a genre that often irritates me more than it touches me. Even after numerous listens, I still discover nuances that enthuse me. Each composition has its own character – the melancholic campfire romance of the aforementioned “Verloren“ enchants me especially on some days – I am very glad that the Dutch also show this quiet, introvert side. As a reviewer, one tends to look for the hair in the soup, but – my verdict “perfect“ already hinted at it – here I do not manage to do that. Een verloren verhaal is a soulful demonstration of power by an extremely likeable band that has presumably not yet reached the peak of its creativity. Without hesitating for a moment, for the second time on the Epic Metal Blog, I give a freshly released album the highest rating. In the genre of epic pagan metal, nothing better will be released this year for sure! Ontzettend bedankt voor dit geweldige kunstwerk en al die heerlijke uren die het me al heeft bezorgd.
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