Sons of Crom [Sweden]
Riddle of Steel
Debemur Morti Productions
10 years on, Quorthon‘s legacy lives on in the many black and viking metal bands that have quoted him and his musical projects as an influence, with bands such as Bloodshed Walhalla even outright proclaiming themselves to be a Bathory tribute band. It is rather fitting then, that out of Quorthon‘s birth-land Sweden comes Sons of Crom, and less than a year after their formation, the band releases their debut full length album Riddle of Steel under the reputable Debemur Morti Productions.
To be honest, the epic heavy/doom metal tag of Sons of Crom got me rather confused as soon as Myrkrarfar started playing, with the riffs of Janne having a blackened element. But as soon as the first vocal lines come in, things start to become clearer, and one quickly realises the intentions of Sons of Crom. The entire soundscape that the band has created, from the viking riffs to the drums, and even the synths that are used at the background attempt to create an epic, heroic listening experience and brings one back to Hammerheart-era Bathory. Even the vocals that are on the record have that intentionally raw and unpolished style that Quorthon was known for, making Riddle of Steel sound even more authentic. As with most viking metal records, the band also brings in some folkish moments on the album as well, and there are numerous times when one is reminded of bands such as Finntroll, such as through the melodies on Master of Shadows or the folk instruments utilised on Cimmerian Dance.
The atmospherics are also extremely important on Riddle of Steel, as the band utilises different tricks and techniques to ensure that one is constantly kept enchanted throughout the album, from the shrouding of the listener in a mysterious fog with the synths, to the layered, operatic vocals on tracks like Golden Gates. The epic, 12-minute track Victory is probably the highlight and climax of the album, as the listener is brought on an emotional journey – from the desolation of the consequences of war, to the final enlightenment of the protagonist.
The production on the album is also stunning, and things such as the way the tone of the drums and guitars all stick true to how a Bathory record would have sounded like.
Everything on Riddle of Steel is done so perfectly that one would have easily mistaken Sons of Crom‘s work as one of Bathory‘s lost recordings. Definitely one of the most beautiful, and fitting tribute to the great Quorthon of late.