Windir - 1184
Head Not Found
Melodic Black Metal
8 songs (51'37")
Release year: 2001
Reviewed by Alex
Archive review

While writing my previous review of Windir’s latest album Likferd I never intended it to be a tribute. However, having learned practically on the day of posting that Terje Bakken, aka Valfar, passed away under very tragic circumstances I could not have omitted that fact in my review. At that time I promised myself to review another of Windir’s albums and specifically dedicate it to Valfar’s memory.

I chose to do 1184. This album, the third in Windir’s brief discography, was the first to introduce Windir as a full fledged band. On 1184 Valfar joined forces with Hvall as another composer and stopped doing all of the instruments himself. Also, the year of 1184 was very historic for the area of Norway Valfar was from. A major battle that shaped the way the region has developed took place in 1184. Tyrannical feudal ruler-konung Sverre Sigurdsson killed his rival and imposed his powers over the Sognefjord region. As history was always a large inspiration for Windir, and Valfar in particular, 1184 stands out as a rather important milestone album.

One reason Windir holds a special place in my heart, they were always true to their roots and that made all of their compositions sound very authentic. You will not find mind-boggling riffs on 1184 – things are kept fairly simple in the guitar department. Arranging the keyboards around those riffs, adding a combination of black and clean vocals, infusing folk melodies played with natively genuine instruments is a formula for success on 1184.

Eight tracks of the album can be very roughly broken in two groups. The majority of the music is very fast, folk melodies set to an amazing pace, often supported by blastbeat drums which also sometimes shift to a playful thrashy beat (Heidra). Guitars and keyboards are intertwined, with the latter having solo spots infusing cosmic surreal atmosphere. You almost know when the synthesizers are going to make appearance, in that way the music is formulaic, but they are never over the top or cheesy. An absolute genius of Windir is to maintain the use of accordion. This instrument is half wind, half keyboard gives a native Norwegian stamp of approval to every melody Windir plays. Be it the dancing around the fire before the battle (title track) or the carefree sheer self-abandonment melody (Dance of Mortal Lust), I yearn for the accordion to play more and more. And those melodies, they are so Norse, and so magnificent, you can’t do anything but feel a personal connection with them if you have an ounce of interest in the Scandinavian history. Fast melodic songs of Windir are probably some of my favorites in melodic black metal.

The other group of songs (The Spiritlord, Destroy, Black New Age) is a little angrier, more guitar driven, but still blends moments of sheer blasting with atmospheric melodies. Slower trolls marches (Destroy) still find room for mid-song synthesizers break that look even more out-of-this-world against the strong and muscular guitar playing. The latter part of the closer Journey to the End completely shifts to electronic beats and melody, and might give an impression you are listening to the mid 80s popular French electronic outfit Space and its galactic melodies. Don’t be fooled though. One push on the “replay” button (well worth it if I may add) will bring you back to the world of frozen fjords and Norwegian black metal.

Valfar is outstanding with his black metal screams. Due to the effects, vocal layering or production his voice has rustling shade to it which makes it even more evil-like. Sometimes the vocals come from such depth (Heidre) you wonder if Valfar brought them out of his blackened heart, not his leather lunged throat. Few clean choruses by Cosmocrator contrast Valfar’s screams extremely well and add another dimension to the music.

Dance of Mortal Lust is a widely accepted hit from 1184, but I contend that all songs on 1184 slay. The fans of Ensiferum who could stand more of black metal structures than the Finns provide, or Moonsorrow accelerated five fold, or Finntroll with richer, more diversed rhythms and melodies – Windir will be your thing.

Valfar dedicated 1184 to himself. Not a bad idea, considering he created Windir. Maybe a little too selfish, but turns out he needed every ounce of recognition he could get as his life was cut so abruptly short. I hope Windir does not stop after Likferd, but replacing Valfar is not a tall order, it is an impossibility. After all there could be no Death or even Control Denied after Chuck’s untimely passing. RIP, Terje “Valfar” Bakken.

Killing Songs :
Just like the review says ALL are good, but if I had to pick Todeswalzer, 1184, Dance of Mortal Lust, Heidra
Alex quoted 93 / 100
Other albums by Windir that we have reviewed:
Windir - Arntor reviewed by Alex and quoted 89 / 100
Windir - Likferd reviewed by Alex and quoted 91 / 100
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