Kampfar - Heimgang
Napalm Records
Pagan Black Metal
10 songs (47'05")
Release year: 2008
Napalm Records
Reviewed by Alex

Some bands need the whole mess of violin and native instruments, furry dresses, painted faces, and sometimes a female frontperson – all to occupy a spot amongst the overpopulated pagan/folk metal genre. Some bands are just born with it, as paganism and appreciation of Norse character are embedded into their DNA. No question, it helps if this band is hailing from one of the Scandinavian countries, as mother’s milk over there contains all of the right ingredients. Such is the case with Kampfar, the Norwegian band which was pagan before it became a fad, before anyone else created a bandwagon so big, there is no room left to be jumping onto it anymore.

Kampfar took a lengthy break before releasing Kvass in 2006. Heimgang capitalizes on the lineup stability, as well as apparent vitality and inspiration presence, to continue along the same blackened lines without being redundant. Compared to its predecessor, Heimgang is focused more on mood and atmosphere than epic stance, which is manifested in songs being shorter and punchier, and the production being more reserved.

After the almost techno, pressure building, many a Finnish band sounding keys (… And Oceans came to mind) on the opener Vantro, Inferno loudly declares that Kampfar has not crossed over to the “experimental” side, and the approach is bound to remain steady. Fast drumming, fast tremolo riffs, but without scathing fuzz, and distinct melodic progressions, without resorting to any gimmicks, would be the recipe Kampfar is going to stick to. In a few songs the faster thrashy tempo runs into a more melodic downbeat somber “breakdown” of sorts. If Dodens Vee and Feigdarvarsel go for this thoughtful deviation only for a brief period of time, penultimate Vettekult is one big emotional crushing melody towards the end. It does seem overall on Heimgang that Kampfar captured perfectly the hardship often endured by the Northern people, and vocalist Dolk, the beast himself, is a perfect voice for this mood, with his dry little-depth cackle delivery.

Guitarist Thomas could not be more authentically melodic, even if he tried. It is interesting that the unmistakably native melodies are achieved naturally (Inferno, Dodens Vee, Mareham). If some would call Heimgang songs simplistic, to those I say that it is an art to take a simple riff, meld it with a fitting beat and create a captivating song out of it. Kampfar succeeds and, moreover, their songs take on different personalities. Antvort is Kvass-like uptempo and upbeat (only it drags a tad too long), Vansinn shows off a difficult day from a Viking travel or woodcutter struggles, all ending in the evening jubilation, Mareham cues in a Norsefest melody, good enough for Valfar (Windir) to smile upon it from wherever his soul is. Skogens Dyp reaches down deep on the personal and emotional level, and the closer Vandring completes the journey to the other side in a monumental dreamy keyboard ornate fashion.

Heimgang may not have that one standout track, like say Lyktemenn, Til Siste Mann or Ravenheart on Kvass, but in a long time I have not encountered such a thoughtful song order on the album. I don’t know a word of Norwegian, but even without that knowledge, I can piece the story and jigsaw puzzle of Heimgang complete. It is definitely worthy of your attention.

Killing Songs :
Dodens Vee, Skogens Dyp, Mareham, Vettekult
Alex quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Kampfar that we have reviewed:
Kampfar - Ofidians Manifest reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Kampfar - Mare reviewed by Alex and quoted 85 / 100
Kampfar - Kvass reviewed by Alex and quoted 82 / 100
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