Hamergilde (2001-2003, 2017+)
|Der Stolz des Nordlands
demo TAPE 2002
1: Die Walkure
Review: Der Stolz des Nordlands is the debut demo of the black metal band Hamergilde, that was founded in 1997 as a duo, but used a session bass player on this release. This is hard-to-find material and I am not sure whether it will ever be made available again, even though I am 100% sure there is an audience for it that will really like it.
The tape opens with Richard Wagner's Die Walkure, overdubbed with a famous WWII speech. Die Walkure is of course Wagner's most recognizable part of the opera Der Ring des Nibelungen and together with the speech it pretty much paints a clear picture which road we're on.
Side Blut continues with four black metal tracks that remind me a lot of Absurd's Asgardsrei. Die ewige Sonne is a fairly simple but effective song on a D-beat with only two riffs, alternating between black metal vocals and clean vocals for the chorus. Der Stolz des Nordlands is a notch slower and offers some nice melodies, also relying on only two riffs. I realize its six minutes might be a bit too much for people that like more variation in their songs, but I dont mind at all. Germania might be more satisfying to them. Again Hamergilde managed to write some strong, pleasing riffs and a catchy chorus. Blut ist unserem Ehre sounds somewhat darker than the previous tracks and has a rather relaxed atmosphere, which is a nice conclusion to this side of the tape.
Side Ehre consists of more moody music, more like the late 1990s works of Burzum or the early works of Halgadom. It starts off with the ambient track Eeuwigheid, which is something I imagine Vikernes could have recorded for Dauši Baldrs. It is a nice break from the distorted guitars and comes at an appropriate moment in the succession of songs. Ragnarök might very well be the most pleasing track of the demo. It has a very satisfying bass melody, which somehow make me think of the better Isengard tracks on Vinterskugge, and effective clean vocals, humming along with the guitar riff; sure, theyre sometimes slightly out of tune, but Ive heard much worse in that area. The demo closes with In dem goldenem Saal, layering acoustic guitars over buzzing black metal. Its abrupt short fade-out after almost three minutes might be the tapes weakest point, since it not only breaks off a song thats still going strong, but it also makes for an unsatisfying ending of the entire demo. Even a small outro might have taken care of that
Overall, the production isn't really great, but it is decent enough for a homemade demo tape - again Ive heard worse - with each song recorded in one or only a few takes. The music is still more than okay and quite convincing. The demo as a whole has a solid structure because all songs have their own unique identities and are well distinguishable. The musical performance is always spontaneous, energetic and atmospheric. We can sometimes hear the musicians talk and fool around in between and even during songs, which would be annoying on most traditional black metal releases, but somehow emphasizes the comradery that was present during the recordings. Sure, this tape is far from flawless, but nothing ever is, so I'm not bothered. The lyrics are all in German, except the few words whispered on Eeuwigheid. If you like Absurd's Asgardsrei and Schwarzer Orden's self-titled debut you will certainly like this music as well.
Source: Black Art Magazine #6, 2003. Rewrite: Metal Archives, title "A promising debut demo", January 2018.
promo CD 2002
Review: After the promising demo Der Stolz des Nordlands, Hamergilde didnt waste time to give three of that tapes songs a renewed recording. Wodans Krieger is still another homemade release - I guess a 4-track or an 8-track at most - but I imagine that this has been done with more preparation, care and time than on the previous demo.
Where Der Stolz des Nordlands borrowed its intro, this demo opens and concludes with music played by the band itself. They are moody instrumental pieces using keyboards, acoustic guitar (outro), black metal screams (intro), choir (outro) and a sword battle sample (intro). The core of four black metal songs are what this demo really is all about.
The re-recorded version of Die ewige Sonne is faster than the old one and sounds way more aggressive. It has actually taken the band half a minute less to offer the same quantity of music. As far as composition goes nothing changed: the track still has only two riffs and that is still no problem. Herr des Kriegers is a new song and sounds more black metal than any of Hamergildes other tracks, due to the guitar work. Still, it doesnt feel like something alien in between the older compositions. Germania has also won about thirty seconds by increasing its speed, with similar results: it sounds more aggressive and solid than the old version. The last of the songs is a remake of Ragnarök, which is still good, but misses the defining presence of the bass guitar that made the old version really stand out. Luckily the clean vocals remain as an anchor and have even improved.
The sound of the demo is consistent and the musicianship has improved since Der Stolz des Nordlands. Hamergilde has found its own sound on Wodans Krieger and the comparisons I made for the debut are far less applicable here. The black metal vocals are pretty raw, which work well for the songs. The guitars are more prominent and powerful than on the debut, but this is not the case with the bass guitar. The line-up information tells me a bass should be there, but I often doubt its presence, thinking Im just imagining the bass lines in the distant background. The lines I think I hear are straight forward and hardly creative, just following the steps of the guitar. The drums are programmed, but they are not that prominent in the mix I dont think of that as problematic. At the same time, they sometimes tend to get drowned out by the guitars. Sure, this demo wouldve benefitted from the use of a real drummer, but it wouldve made recording at home pretty hard as well.
Personally, I am not sure which versions of the songs I prefer, but its probably a mix between both demo tapes. The merits of this release are definitely found in the production, but its sharp edge does tend to interfere with the intimate atmosphere present on the old demo. For the black metal listener that goes for a bit of consistency, however, this release will score most points.
Its too bad the band didnt last long enough after this release, but I think these tracks couldve given them a serious chance to attract a record label.
Source: Metal Archives, titled "Germanic Aggression", January 2018.
TAPE 2018 by Heidens Hart Records
rufen deine Wölfe
Review: After (too) many years of silence Hamergilde has been called back into existence as a solo endeavour by one of its founding musicians, Odal, to return with a full-length album, released on Heidens Hart. Its called Weerwolf yes indeed, werewolf in Dutch and lasts about 35 minutes, offering traditional black metal without going for typical rawness or breakneck tempos, but neither resorting to reverb-rich doom elements or keyboards for its darker side. It has also taken a distance from the RaC-elements that sometimes popped up on the old releases.
Im glad to hear that some things in Hamergilde are still the same - German and Dutch lyrics, both languages that, in my opinion, really fit black metal - and some things have changed for the better. One of the first things I notice is the sound of the album, which is very well produced and has a certain warmth that brings out the best of the deep - and very understandable - black metal vocals and the clean supporting vocals. The band has definitely said goodbye to traditional treble-filled black metal of old, and sounds more modern without parting with the old-school feeling and riffs. The drums function as the heartbeat of the songs and never take a leading role, like in a lot of contemporary black metal (an element adopted from death metal). It also becomes apparent that the tempo has been taken back a notch, compared to the demos. Its actually not until the third track that I first hear double basskicks and a bit of uptempo rhythms. The fact that Odal has been walking around in the black metal scene for quite a long time, shows itself on this demo. Even the outro reaches back to the first half of the 1990s, with a short take on the kind of material early Mortiis once offered. It stresses the fact that Hamergilde is a band that has developed a great eye (ear) for atmosphere.
When comparing this releases Hamergilde with another band, I think of a modern version of old Countess. This is best heard in the tracks with Dutch lyrics, which possess a similar atmosphere and, dare I say it, a certain intimacy (at least for a Dutch speaking audience). There is actually a Countess cover on the album, so the comparison isnt a random coincidence. Bloed in the Sneeuw is that bands best known and most requested song, and its reworked by Hamergilde in a very convincing way; even without the trademark screaming of Orlok.
Apart from the music, Hamergilde and Heidens Hart offer a nice, professionally made tape with a simple but effective and stylish cover, that is worth the money you will pay for it. Hamergilde is a band the proves that Dutch black metal is still very much alive, and that its a national scene with great diversity.
Source: Metal Archives, titled "The Return...", October, 2018.