Andreas Hedlund, aka Vintersorg, aka Mr. V (if you believe his Wikipedia page) was a prime component of my re-entry into extreme metal. After falling in with Opeth’s Morningrise I wasn’t sure where to head next, so I went to the record store and maxed out my credit card randomly picking up a bunch of CDs I thought looked cool. The first one I listened to was Empiricism by Borknagar, and while my response to the music was lukewarm (more an issue with the production than the actual songwriting) the vocals hooked me immediately. As fate would have it one of the other CDs I picked up was Vintersorg’s Cosmic Genesis, and listening to that I began to get the sense of just how much versatility and talent this guy had.
So much versatility and talent it’s taken at least seven different bands to contain him so for this week’s Nine Circles ov… let’s dive into some of the music created by, driven buy, or enhanced by the man some (I don’t know who) know as Mr. V.
“The Genuine Pulse” – Borknagar, Empiricism
Might as well go with the first song I ever heard with Vintersorg on it to kick this off. The opening track from Borknagar’s fifth album, “The Genuine Pulse” encapsulates the “Borknagar” sound for me: varied and majestic instrumentation where keyboards complement guitars rather than overshadow or hide in the background, a natural folk element and the dynamic range of vocals on display, It’s not my favorite track on the album (it’s not even my favorite Borknagar album), but it was first and so holds a special place for me.
“Cosmic Genesis” – Vintersorg, Cosmic Genesis
The title track from Vintersorg’s 2000 solo effort isn’t as sonically dense as Borknagar, but that space allows some of Hedlund’s more personal touches come through: the emphasis on electronics and more mainstream hard rock elements fusing with the folk touches that are a signature of his sound. The entire album embraces these disparate styles and it all works. I could have chose anything from for this list (and almost went with “Rainbow Demon”) but once you hear the chorus to “Cosmic Genesis” you can’t get it out of you head.
“Holy Diver” – Otyg, Sagovindars boning
Hedlund’s earliest project lies firmly in the realm of folk metal, with copious amounts of fiddle and everything sung in Swedish. Everything, that is, except for this cover of the immortal Dio’s “Holy Diver” off their second album Sagovindars boning in 1999. I wouldn’t say it’s a great cover, but where else can you hear a cover of “Holy Diver” with mouth harp?
“Frequency Control” – Fission, Pain Parade
My next exposure to Hedlund was this project featuring Vintersorg drummer Benny Hägglund who takes over the majority of the writing and instrumentation, presenting a more thrash, traditional hook-laden metal offering. It works as kind of a distant cousin to the kind of melodic death metal coming out at the time (think post Figure Number Five Soilwork) but gets a small lift thanks to Hedlund’s vocal contribution. “Frequency Control” is indicative of the entirety of 2008’s Pain Parade, for better or worse. You decide.
“Teleporting the Universe” – Gravisphere, Gravisphere
Is this even a thing? Who knows, but when I went searching to see if there was any Vintersorg stuff on Bandcamp I came across this single from 2008. From the description it looks to be some kind of marriage of black metal and electronic/ambient elements with Hedlund providing all the writing and performing EXCEPT for vocals, so sort of a reverse Fission. It’s not entirely successful in my mind, sounding more than a little dated, but if anything (besides the Dio cover) is going to be a surprise to you it’s probably this.
“Cold Wave Eruptions” – Cronian, Erathems
You might be hard pressed to understand why, if Hedlund and Øystein Brun already have a creative outlet in Borknagar they would need another? Cronian opens up the compressed fury of Borknagar to a colder, more symphonic and electronic journey through the same thematic material. Unfettered by constraints of their more well-known identity, Cronian allows for the flexing of different muscles, and over the course of three albums and 12 years they’ve gotten better each time. “Cold Wave Eruptions” kicks off 2013’s Erathems, and sounds amazing considering it’s the work of two guys working long distance. Her’s hoping they don’t wait another six years for a follow-up.
“Starshine Theater” – Waterclime, Imaginative
Okay, bear with me here. Yes: this is catering to the worst of Hedlund, a psychedelic progressive rock solo project that seems to reside in a very narrow band of frequencies. It’s more than a little comical and yet, when he hits that chorus and his voice rises up I’m grinning like a fool even as I’m laughing at the way he pronounces “thee-AT-er!” in the chorus. This is Vintersorg distilled to his hippy, drippy essence, and if you listen you’ll see these hints and tags throughout his heavier discography.
“E.S.P. Mirage (Visions From the Spiral Generator)” – Vintersorg, Visions From the Spiral Generator
Visions From the Spiral Generator is almost too eclectic in its styles, jumping back and forth between time signatures, tempos, and genre. So I admit it’s not the most cohesive album in Vintersorg’s discography, but the musicianship is so stellar I forgive it everything. The progressive nature of the music meshes perfectly with the more abstract concept in the lyrics (those sung in English, anyway) and doesn’t suffer from the same thinness of production the music in Waterclime does. Everything here is full and robust, and “E.S.P. Mirage” is the apex of the album, clashing everywhere in a wonderful cacophony.
“Fountainhead” – Spiral Architect, A Sceptic’s Universe
This is a bit of a cheat – Hedlund doesn’t appear anywhere on this album. Rather, this is an AMAZING technical/progressive metal album featuring most of the players that would go on to play on Vintersorg’s Visions From the Spiral Generator. In my perfect world these guys went to do more than their single (again – AMAZING) album, 1995’s A Sceptic’s Uinverse and would change the the course of history, Bill and Ted style. “Fountainhead” is indicative of the type of insanity the band can get up to, so definitely pick this album up if you get a chance.
Tune in next year when I cover the other dozen or so projects Hedlund creates out of thin air. The guy is BUSY, is what I’m saying, and we the metal community are the better for it.
Almost everything (except A Sceptic’s Universe, dammit!) can be found on the majority of streaming platforms. In the meantime, there’s always YouTube…