The oft-disputed subgenre of Viking metal is something I’ve always found hard to define in metal. Is it really a subgenre or just slightly blackened folk metal? Whereas Enslaved, Falkenbach and maybe Månegarm are sometimes referred to as being viking metal, I think Ereb Altor actually really encapsulates—I don’t want to say the sound—but the essence and idea of viking metal really well. The Swedish band is, much like the famous Christmas goat, based in Gävle, a town that’s definitely not pronounced how you think it is. The band’s new EP Eldens Boning features only four songs so that means we get to focus on each and every one of them.
An immediate sense of epic is unleashed with the opening notes of this release, soon joined by spoken lyrics. As the guitars join about a minute into the piece, signaling what we heard before was just an intro, the real sound of Ereb Altor is produced. There’s a definite blackened touch to the song, although it’s not done in a fast way, but focuses more on the dark atmosphere. The vocals can seem as if they don’t fully fit with the instrumentals, but that’s a stylistic choice, one that I don’t mind and something that’s reminiscent slightly of Primordial, but perhaps lacks the passion of the Irish band slightly. “The Twilight Ship” is quite a monster of a track, clocking in at 7:36, which isn’t new for Ereb Altor as they really do love long epic songs and they’ve definitely succeeded in creating another one of them here.
The next track is very exciting because the Swedes have done something quite unusual and went with an acoustic piece in the form of “Fenrisulven.” There are violins in it! And we all know that violins make for a good song, it’s one of the rules of metal. (If you’re wondering, one of the other rules is that Peter Tägtgren being involved equals a good band). Fittingly, the song is, of course, in Swedish and talks of Nordic mythology as far as I can tell. There are a few comparisons to be drawn here with bands like Wardruna as the song does give that feeling of a story being told around a fire that keeps you warm while listening to the man with the odd scars on his face talk of strange events and you suddenly become very aware of the chill on the back of your neck.
Because everyone loves to be kept on their toes, Ereb Altor completely switch the feeling on the next—and also titular track—“Eldens Boning,” starts with some proper black metal brutality and a great guitar riff. I’d actually call this song folk(ened) black metal, as opposed to blackened folk metal. There are proper growls, and they’re really solid, which gets me pumped and the song reminds me a bit of some of Finntroll’s tracks, but it does also have some choir in the background to keep that epic feeling the band really likes to go for. Definitely a great song to play live and also easily my favourite on this EP.
The last song on the EP is “Sacrifice 2.0,” which meant I had to go back and listen to “Sacrifice” from the 2013 album Fire Meets Ice and it’s made me realise how much better the production is on this EP. I mostly dislike rawness in black metal, (I know, I’m still not very kvlt) so this is a very welcome evolutionary process for me. The song itself uses a nice mix of growls and cleans, resulting in what sounds like a dialogue between the voices. While the song doesn’t really have a specific chorus, there is an element of catchiness to it and it rounds up the album nicely.
I’m usually not a fan of EPs, but I do like what the band has done here in keeping the release short, yet presenting vastly different songs and not wasting anyone’s time with any filler material. From the aggressive black metal to the skaldic “Fenrisulven,” the release has a lot to offer and I can’t really find many flaws about it. If you’re someone that likes a folky touch in your metal as well as some black metal influences done in more interesting ways than most of it is, Eldens Boning is a really good start to get acquainted with these Swedes.