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Vintersorg - The Focusing Blur CD (album) cover

THE FOCUSING BLUR

Vintersorg

 

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.50 | 32 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
3 stars 'The Focusing Blur' - Vintersorg (6/10)

It's usually very interesting to hear a reinvention of a genre, whether its taking the existing sound of the genre in a new direction, or using abnormal means to make the same point. Vintersorg are one such band that have done alot for their style, that being the sort of music most often called 'viking metal'. This genre typically revolves around a narrow band of topics, ranging from Viking mythology, to Viking culture, and giants. Although I have boundless respect for some of the best viking acts- Bathory and Enslaved come to mind- most bands are copycats that try to revive both the glory of their war-torn ancestors, and the artists that made it such a popular trend in metal to begin with. This is largely why Vintersorg stand out, why they have all of the qualities of viking metal, they are not afraid to experiment with trying new things. As promising as that sounds, this has led to a rather uneven career, and their fifth album 'The Focusing Blur' is right evidence of this. Despite having plenty of potential for brilliance, Vintersorg's ambition leads them to create something that feels more scattered than anything, leaving me to wonder what this could have sounded like if things were a little less, err... blurry.

In the style of many viking metal bands, Vintersorg use very clean vocals over the sort of instrumentation that someone might first associate with black metal. There are extreme vocals here, but they are used very sparsely. The vocal duties instead aim for either melodic singing, or theatrical spoken-word dialogue. The singing of Andreas Hedlund is probably the best thing that Vintersorg offers here; as usual, his voice is very strong, and offers the listener plenty of incredibly melodic choruses around every corner. Although incredibly harmonious and well arranged, few of the melodies are all-too memorable, although I will admit that some of the lines here can get pretty catchy after a few listens. As for the spoken- word pieces that are so prevalent on this album, Hedlund warbles on as if he was some philosophically-inclined ringleader, and it does not work quite as well as Vintersorg thinks it does. Usually, these parts pass by as being too heavy on the cheese and even pretentious, especially considering that there are song titles here like 'A Microscopical Macrocosm'. The lyrical content is probably more interesting than typical runes-and-giants fare, but this could have been done so much better.

The keyboards fill in for the folky elements here, and while they might attempt to sound like classical string sections and medieval instruments, but the synths are far too shallow to stand as a valid replacement. The way these folky sections are played sounds very thin, made more of a shame by the fact that the composition itself is very good. 'The Focusing Blur' does not enjoy the same memorable songwriting, but there are parts here where Vintersorg is showing their adventurous spirit, and it's ironically usually shown through the cheesy keyboards. Through the fairly typical melodies, drums and guitar parts, it usually comes as a big surprise to hear them drop a prog rock keyboard solo in the middle of a song. There are even moments- particularly an eerie moment that felt almost plucked out of a circus show- that nearly verge on the avant-garde.

What I envision most for Vintersorg here are two guys with a bunch of musical ideas, throwing them all down in a row, and calling it an album. Admittedly, some of the stuff here is brilliant, but I cannot call 'The Focusing Blur' an excellent album for the fact that for every idea that does work here, there is another that does not fare nearly as well. Put simply, 'The Focusing Blur' needed more focus. Less forward-thinking albums by this band have had a greater impact on me, simply because there was a clearer sense of flow to them.

Conor Fynes | 3/5 |

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