WINDIR

Melodic Black Metal • Norway
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Windir, or in English "Primal Warrior", is a now defunct black metal/viking metal band from Sogndal, Norway. Their style of music emphasised their roots, lyrically depicting historical events and the musical inclusion of old folk tunes and even the accordion. Valfar himself called the music he made "Sognametal". Most of their lyrics were based on old stories and local history from Sogndal, going back to the viking-age. Many of Windir's lyrics are written in the archaic local dialect Sognamål.

Windir released four albums Sóknardalr, Arntor, 1184 and Likferd in their ten year career. The two first albums were entirely created by Terje "Valfar" Bakken, the founder of Windir, whereas the next two were written together with his childhood friend Hváll.

Windir started as a one-man-band in 1994, and on the first album, Sóknardalr, Valfar plays everything except the drums himself. On Arntor Valfar decided to include more session members, but
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WINDIR Discography

WINDIR albums / top albums

WINDIR Sóknardalr album cover 3.62 | 7 ratings
Sóknardalr
Melodic Black Metal 1997
WINDIR Arntor album cover 4.34 | 15 ratings
Arntor
Melodic Black Metal 1998
WINDIR 1184 album cover 4.44 | 8 ratings
1184
Melodic Black Metal 2001
WINDIR Likferd album cover 4.03 | 6 ratings
Likferd
Melodic Black Metal 2003

WINDIR EPs & splits

WINDIR live albums

WINDIR demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

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WINDIR Valfar, ein Windir album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Valfar, ein Windir
Melodic Black Metal 2004

WINDIR singles (0)

WINDIR movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Sogna Metal
Melodic Black Metal 2005

WINDIR Reviews

WINDIR 1184

Album · 2001 · Melodic Black Metal
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adg211288
As far as household names of melodic black metal go, then Norway's Windir is right up there with Sweden's Dissection, arguable the style's pioneer. They were the brainchild of one Terje Bakken, known as Valfar, who started the band in 1994. Windir's is one of the genre's tragic tales though, as in 2004, while journeying to his family's cabin in Fagereggi, Norway, Valfar was caught in a snow storm and never made it. His body was discovered three days later in the Sogndal Valley near the town of Reppastolen, where he had died of hypothermia. He was just 25 years old at the time of his death. Although Windir was only able to exist for a decade, four well regarded full-length albums were produced. The third of these was 1184 (2001), where for the first time Valfar had expanded his project into a full six strong group and switched primarily to English lyrics instead of the Sognamål Norwegian dialect.

Compared to all the other Windir full-length albums, 1184 is also the most unique and experimental one among them. Windir, with their choice of lyrical themes and cover artwork, had the air of Viking/Pagan styling about them but that didn't stop Valfar and company from trying some new things on 1184 that weren't really in context with that, such the use of electronic elements, most notably on the final track Journey to the End. This may somewhat explain why fans are said to have been a bit divided by the album at the time of its release, as compared to the prior Sóknardalr (1997) and Arntor (1999) this one also features some departures, featuring less developed folk ideas and being more in line with the so called Viking metal sound, with some really rich sounding ambient synths being used, which you can hear right away in the opening track Todeswalzer. At its heart though, 1184 remains very much a melodic black metal album, guitar based and lively and even a bit thrashy in some places. I struggle to really follow the vocals of Valfar himself but they're delivered with an infectious sort of energy that makes me instantly dig what the band are doing. I also find that their choice of guest clean vocalist to be an improvement on the first two albums, with Cosmocrator replacing Steinarson.

With albums like 1184 to his name, Valfar left a small but amazing legacy that few melodic black metal acts will ever hope to match. The key tracks on this one for me have to be the epic Destroy, which instantly strikes as an absolute beast of a track, and also Dance of Mortal Lust which is made of the same stuff. The closing Journey to the End is also deserving of another mention as it's the most surprising track, initially starting as a typical Windir song but then at about a third of the way through it changes into ambient/electronic music, which actually displays some really good melodies. It's the kind of moment that makes you sit up and wonder if you really just heard the band do that. It's surprises like this that make, for my money at least, 1184 the best of Windir's four albums. I'd consider this one an absolute essential for anyone with even a small interest in black metal to purchase.

WINDIR Arntor

Album · 1998 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Conor Fynes
'Arntor' - Windir (89/100)

In my mind, it is lamentably difficult to dissociate Windir's music from the ill-fated demise of the band's frontman and songwriter, Terje "Valfar" Bakken. That he met his end in a cold of a snowstorm feels drearily appropriate for the music he played in life, and might even seem amusingly ironic, were it not for the fact that friends and family lost a loved one that night, and the black metal scene lost one of its brightest composers. It has been over a decade now since his passing, and people still have his memory in mind when they listen to Windir. His ghost hangs over the music, and begs us to wonder what other masterpieces he might have conjured in the time since fate's deadly trick.

Yet, in spite of the supposed sensationalism that surrounds this and many of the other tragedies in the Norwegian Second Wave, it has never been enough to overshadow the music itself. People might still speculate over the circumstances of Valfar's death, but it's the brilliance Windir exhibited in their vastness of composition and arrangement that keep them sticking around. Arntor was the first Windir album I ever listened to, and it was an all-too rare case of a Second Wave album striking me as a work of genius on my very first listen. The pagan scene is replete with bands that wish to emulate Windir's approach, but none have managed to surpass the formula they perfected on Arntor. The only other artist I can think of that blended traditional black metal with such melody-focused songwriting is Dissection, and given the ever-legendary regard that band earned over the course of two or three albums, it's not bad company for Windir to be in at all.

The strength and significance of melody cannot (read: cannot) be overstated on Arntor. While melodic songwriting tends to get a bad rep in black metal and other 'artistic' genres for being simplistic, cheesy or both, Windir are anything but. The closest thing I could liken their style to outside of bands that influenced them, or were themselves influenced by, would be the Romantic-era classical composers, who gave up some of the pretense of High Classical orchestration to make way for a more sweeping and straightforward beauty. At least four of the seven tracks on Arntor give the staunch impression of classical music performed as black metal. Even (perhaps especially) at the band's most fast-paced and aggressive moments, the guitars are soaring through intensely melodic passages. They are not 'hooks' per se so much as vessels for a conventionally beautiful and sweeping atmosphere, made potentially inaccessible to outsiders of metal fandom only by the merit of the aggressive drumwork and raspy shrieks to be generally expected from the genre. To say that I might bring up Arntor to someone who was looking to first get into black metal shouldn't imply it is simply a gateway to be dismissed once a listener acclimates themselves to more extreme pastures; Arntor is conventionally very beautiful, but it is so at no cost to its depth and longevity.

"Arntor, ein windir" is the song that has engrained itself in my mind the most, if only because it was the 'lightbulb moment' that demonstrated to me how bloody fantastic the rest of the album was bound to be. For Windir, the handling of melody and harmony are one and the same; much like a classical composition, there are often at least a couple of melodies vying for attention, and it is the way they connect and interplay that really matters. Windir occasionally bring clean vocals to bear, but their use of melody in far more in line with the expected Viking formula: deep-pitched, chant-like, and rich in harmony. While Arntor stands out most for its brilliant guitar writing, the more typical elements of pagan metal are executed just as well.

"Kong Hydnes haug", "Svartesmeden og lundamystrollet", and "Saknet" are, in hindsight, just as impressive and beautiful as "Arntor, ein windir", and possibly even bolder when it comes to the overall composition. While the first two are obviously separate tracks, they flow perfectly together, operating from the same tonal origin in such a way that it sounds like one is an inventive variation on the other. While the first three of these tracks are almost uplifting in their soaring melodic appeal, "Saknet" is a much more melancholy piece; without losing any of its conventional beauty, the album's final centrepiece is both predictable in its style, and startling in its refreshing emotional perspective.

There are, of course, three other tracks on Arntor I have glazed over. While they're all solid movements and don't threaten the album's relative 'masterpiece' status, I find it difficult to hold them on the same level of regard as the 'Big Four'-- judging from what I've read on a few other reviews, this tends to be a pretty common criticism. "Byrjing" falls into the done-to-death category of 'synthesizer album intro', the likes of which you've come across a hundred times on other albums of this sort. It's decently atmospheric and more purposefully composed than at least ninety of those mentioned intros, but it does little more than to set the table for the main course. "Kampen" and "Ending", on the other hand, are pretty standard pagan-black metal tunes. "Kampen" in particular is a nice surge of chest-bumping drinking energy in between the two larger epics, but it does sound like Windir were operating on a much less ambitious wavelength with these tracks. Even so; I disagree with the notion that these tracks have no place on Arntor. While they'll never be considered highlights for as long as the album enjoys a listenership, they offer a contrast and reprieve from the jaw-dropping atmosphere. They're solid pagan tunes, but what's more; they stand as a reminder of just how excellent and distinguished the best songs really are in comparison with most of the genre.

Although my personal listening diet often gravitates towards the cosmic end of black metal over its earthly, pagan counterpart, Arntor stands as a masterpiece of its style to my ears, and probably the best album Windir ever put out in their time. The melodic writing is some of the best I have ever heard on a black metal album. Despite his age, Valfar inspired the confidence of a true composer. Whether or not the material is consistent is unimportant when the sum of the parts is so rich and expressive. Everything is in its rightful place. Windir lives on!

WINDIR Likferd

Album · 2003 · Melodic Black Metal
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Warthur
The tragic death of Valfar put an end to the existence of Windir at a horribly frustrating time, for on Likferd there were signs that their melodic black metal style was evolving in a decidedly interesting direction. With Valfar taking up vocals and accordion as well as providing electronic treatments (just listen to some of the unusual sounds he gets out of Steingrim's drums here), Likferd finds Windir becoming more comfortable working with an expanded group lineup and creating a progressive, evolved melodic black metal sound which betrays hidden depths. Emotionally speaking there's much less reliance on cliched black metal hatred - just look at the cover art with the historical scene portrayed, setting a mood (as does the music here) distinctly different from most black metal efforts.

WINDIR 1184

Album · 2001 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Warthur
Valfar seems to be happy with the Windir sound as executed on Arntor, because on 1184 he along with an extended cast of helpers present a continuation of the sound of that album, with the main musical development being somewhat cleaner and clearer production. It's a satisfying album which will win over those who enjoyed the melodic black metal of Arntor, though it doesn't quite hit the level of its predecessor perhaps because of a mild lack of ambition and failure to musically develop compared to its predecessor. It's not a bad Windir album by any means, but it doesn't feel quite as fresh and exciting as its predecessor.

WINDIR Sóknardalr

Album · 1997 · Melodic Black Metal
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Warthur
Windir's Sóknardalr finds Valfar and Steormgrim presenting a rough early attempt at the sound they would later perfect on Arntor. The folk metal aspects of their music are not quite integrated into their black metal foundation as seamlessly as on their subsequent work, so it's much more "folky bit, black metal bit, folky bit" in that respect, but solid performances from both band members manage to regain the listener's interest just as it begins to wander. A decent listen if you're already spellbound by Windir's later work, but it would take a little more tinkering before they were firing on all cylinders.

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