It almost doesn’t feel like it’s been three years since Heidevolk last released an album. The previous release, Veula, was one of my favourites of 2015 and it’s still actually still in my regular listening list. That being said, I approached this album rather gingerly as the band had a lineup change just after the release of that album. Long-time vocalist Mark Splintervuyscht and guitarist Reamon Bomenbreker departed the band not long after the album came out and as a result, I knew that Vuur van Verzet would probably not have the same vibe as the previous releases. And with that, I pressed play and began listening with the lyrics and liner notes at hand to help tell the tales of old.
“Ontwaakt” is the first song that plays and right off the bat I notice that it’s business as usual in the Heidevolk camp. Any worries I had about new vocalist, Jacco de Wijs, not being able to gel with Lars NachtBraecker were quickly dismissed as the harmonies that we all know and love are right there on display. “A Wolf in my Heart” then signals a minor departure from the norm as the lyrics are sung in English. Whilst this isn’t the first time the band have done so, (“Vinland” from Veula being the other song I know in English) the band somehow make it work despite it sounding slightly odd from time to time.
“Yngwaz Zonen” again signals a departure from the usual folk metal by instead opting for a singular beating drum whilst a choir of Dutchmen sing in a call and response style. A song of this type would not be out of place in the show Vikings and from checking the liner notes, the band seem to think the same with the comment
“Driven by natural disasters, tribal wars and the desire to explore, these Ingvaeonic tribes (Yngwaz’s sons) cross the seas in search of new territories.”
The following track brings back the usual Heidevolk style alongside the large choir once more and takes a slightly slower pace than some of the other tracks on the album. Ending proceedings with a guitar solo and a rousing chorus, “Britannia” is in my opinion one of the best tracks on the album purely for blending both the old and new. Another English song in the form of “The Alliance” comes on next but unlike “A Wolf in my Heart”, the first portion of the track is sung in Dutch with the remainder in English. Coupled with the superb guitar-playing and the additional instruments ranging from Violins to acoustic guitars, it’s arguably one of the best Heidevolk tracks I’ve ever heard. The same can be said of “Tiwaz” which comes a plenty with fast riffing, traditional instruments and an anthemic chorus which could give “Nehalennia” a run for its money.
The vocals then all fade away for an instrumental song which is a much more sombre affair. In comparison to some other instrumental tracks the band has done (such as “Alvermans Wraak”), this is less of an uplifting song and more of a reflective interlude on “Het Oneindige Woud”. The pace and vocals are then brought back in “Gungnir” and “Woedend” with each track respectively telling the story of Woden and his hanging on the tree in Yggdrasil to learn of mysteries of the runes, and the clarity one can experience in battle which leaves you unafraid of enemies. Whilst “Gungnir” is more a fast paced contemplative piece, “Woedend” is a more bombastic piece with double-kick patterns and tremolo picked guitars galore.
“Het Juk der Tijd” ends the album in true Heidevolk style with the dual vocals and traditional folk instruments alongside the more ‘metal’ elements. Opting instead to talk about the “story of order and chaos endlessly repeating itself”, the track once again brings the traditional instruments to the forefront and allows them room to breathe instead of having them play second fiddle to the vocals and guitars all the time. Whilst it’s less uplifting than the last album’s ending track was, “Het Juk der Tijd” almost ends the album in a better way with its slow fade of guitars and folk instruments and harmonising dutch vocals creating an almost symbolic end to the album.
Whilst I will admit that I was initially worried that the band would sound different without Raemon and Mark, the reality is that they sound exactly the same as on the previous release. If anything, the band sounds better than it ever has. By opting to have some English singing in there and more ‘choral’ sections in songs, they have shown that they are still one of the best folk-metal bands in the scene today and that they are more than capable of writing songs that will stick in your head long after you’ve listened to them.
Vuur van Verzet is released on the 12th January via Napalm Records.