It’s very rare that I nearly give up on an album out of frustration before I even have it, and Shaman by Sweden’s Eldkraft is the unfortunate victim of my rage. Since yesterday, I have been trying to not only get the promo from the digital press site established by Metal Blade Records, but then trying to transfer the files over to laptop or MP3 player so I could review it at some point soon. It took hours and countless attempts, even writing my contact inquiring if the upload might have an issue, or if I’m the only unlucky son of a bitch having this problem. Well, I finally got the songs on the player, I wrapped up a recent review, I figured I’d answer the burning question, the one I’ve been asking myself with my face buried in my hands out of frustration: Was this actually worth it? Well, let’s take a quick spin and find out!
The album starts off with “Gammal Krigare,” bringing some chanting into play with some epic Viking-esque riffs. It’s about what I expect given the press release pushing that this band is in love with grand material. The music finally kicks in, and I’m immediately transported to early Tyr material, but without the more Progressive elements. The audio is a bit empty, but it still sounds good, giving it a bit of a misty tone. There’s plenty of shifts as well just by the three minute mark, though none really that dynamic, all sticking with the slower pace. The guitar solo actually brings in some sorrowful emotion as well. The lyrics are all in Swedish, which I don’t speak, so I can’t really tell how well the music reflects the lyrical content performed by rougher harmonization that sometimes doesn’t sound serious. They don’t hurt the song, nor do they do much for it aside the ending. There are some clean vocals past the half way point, and I’m liking them a lot more. For seven minutes and fifteen seconds, it’s a solid track I enjoyed and have no problem throwing on again.
“Undrets Tid” sounds like it may be a little faster thanks to the ritualistic styled drum introduction. The clean vocals return, sometimes being off a bit, but it just reaffirms how much better it sounds this way, especially when they go into more operatic terrain. I can’t help but feel slightly let down at some shifts where the band seems to be restraining themselves instead of just belting out with a powerful, energetic performance, similar to my frustrations with the debut Ghost album. The drums don’t really meet my expectations, but the increase in bass kicks at those points does end up saving it, and I’m still interesting instead of wanting to skip ahead.
“Fate’s Door” immediately has me banging my head to the march-like performance the drums are pushing forward. The slight muffle on the audio gives the guitars a haunting tone during the start, though it changes shortly after. This is carried into the fantastic, somewhat Progressive chorus. It’s catchy as hell and makes me want to immediately sing along to it while also banging my head at various times. I like it, but again it feels like either the band is holding themselves back a bit, or it’s the audio quality doing it for them.
“Moder Liv Till Grav” starts with a moody guitar performance against some background effects of wind I couldn’t pick up on until the intro ended. After I’m greeted with some sharp riffs, and I’m greeted with what, to me, sounds like some blackened performances with various bridges that try to create an epic vibe. For more part, it’s more of the same, though doesn’t really seem to be going anywhere before I just ends and makes me fear this album might start to get rather repetitive really quick…
“Ursprungskallan” is another slower track with catchy music that finds me bobbing my head along to it, but I’m barely twenty seconds in and I’m already getting tired of it. There is a nice little piano piece that ushers in a very sad atmosphere that immediately has me thinking of the cold, clean riffs found in a Depressive Black Metal song. Finally, a song that changes things up a little more. The guitars sound harsher and heavier compared to the others, and the main verses are moving without trying to stick to an epic approach, though it happens naturally later on. There’s no feeling of restriction, and there’s actually a good deal of energy to be felt. The songs also has some melodic riffs in the background that helps to make the experience a lot richer.
I admit, at this point, I took a break from the album. I needed to cleanse the pallette in a way, as it was starting to grow a little old. After sitting down to a quick dinner of ramen and microwave tacos, I felt ready to finish this quick spin of the album…
“Patterns” is a nice surprise that breaks the mold a bit. This one is a little more aggressive, though it needs to build to it. This lies primarily in the chorus it seems, or at least before. I also just noticed some English being sung here, and am not sure exactly when it kicked in after the first track, or if it’s just this one. The drumming shows some additional technicality in the timing when switching up the bass kicks and some snares, and the guitars offer some additional complexity in the form of melody. At about three minutes the pace really picks up, and there are some keyboards that give it a creepy tone through short notes. The minutes and twenty seconds of this track literally just flew by.
“Granslos Grans” deceived me at the very start. Shortly after the intro, it basically resets itself back to that slower pace with clean singing, but there are additional keyboards at play randomly to push towards that grand scale once more. I’m not into this one at all, mostly because I’ve heard it before. The faster bass kicks are a nice touch though, and the chorus finds a much stronger vocal performance that suits the serious music more than the aforementioned operatic style vocals being attempted. As the song reaches its end, the bass kicks pick up once more, and it fades out incredibly slow. A nice touch, though I wouldn’t mind hearing a proper ending instead of a fade.
“Grey Man” starts off incredibly… weird? The bass guitar has a rather crunchy groove to it that almost sounds psychadelic. The guitars kick in shortly after and everything is back to normal, but to be honest, I wanna hear more of that crunchy as hell bass line! Instead, the many open moments that would push it like the start had focus on the guitar with some technical riffs that are pretty catchy overall. Some chords actually have a distortion that makes them sound more like a flute similar to a Folk Metal performance from a band like Arkona. I think this is one of my favorite tracks next to “Undrets Tid.”
“Dodens Famn” slam in with a few cymbal crashes, then enters into a sort of funeral march stance with the drumming on the snares. There is a powerful build up that erupts a little more than two minutes in, but it doesn’t really pay off much. The music is a bit edgier, but that’s about it. There are melodic riffs later on that bridge some mid-tempo material into a slower bridge before the booming snares present a somewhat grand, ritualistic sound to the music. This mostly carries on until the end, but there’s nothing that special about it sadly.
The album concludes with “Rimthurs.” It’s starting off like a typical Pagan or Viking Metal piece, finding throat singing harmonizations against some ambient effects. It’s a very dismal atmosphere, and only perplexes me further. Many of the riffs throughout have given me a slight Egyptian vibe, even though that’s clearly not what I should be experiencing, and this sadly is just bringing up thoughts of pyramid, temples, and mummification. Either way, this throat performance carries on against an incoming storm, thunder crackling in the background, and when you think it’ll get worse, the song just fades to silence. Bummer.
Unfortunately, from this single spin, all I’m taking from it is that this is a very basic “epic” Viking Metal-esque album with some Progressive elements thrown in. The songs are good, but a few songs in I was bored and literally had to step away for a bit so I can refocus on what I’m hearing. I can’t really tell at this point if it’s the performances themselves, or if it’s the muffled audio quality holding it back to me. Can I suggest this album at this point? On a personal level, not really, but if you’re into straight forward Nordic inspired Metal, or bands such as Tyr or Primordial, there’s no reason to not at least sample it somehow. Who knows, it may speak more to you than it did to me this time around.