written by Vassilis ‘VJ’ Savvakis & Giorgos Tsekas
“Jormundgand” is the debut album for Helheim, few months only after “Vikingligr Veldi” that marked the second wave of Black Metal. Raw black metal with longthy songs just like the great debut album from Enslaved (in “Jormundgand” most are beyond 7 minutes long and “Svart Visdom” is 9) disharmonic guitarlines and extremely high vocals (even though clean voices are being used here and there, probably to give more emphasis to epic moments). Historical release with great quality and stand out tracks “Nidr Ok Nordr Liggr Helvegr” with its female vocals, the opener “Jormundgand” and “Gravlagt I Eljudne”. Helheim (“house of Hel”) is one of the nine worlds of Norse mythology. It is ruled by Hel, the monstrous daughter of the trickster god Loki and his wife Angrboda. This cold, dark and misty abode of the dead is located in the world of Niflheim, on the lowest level of the Norse universe. No one can ever leave this place, because of the impassable river Gjoll that flows from the spring Hvergelmir and encircles Helheim. Once they enter Helheim, not even the gods can leave. Those who die of old age or disease, and those not killed in battle, go to Helheim while those who die bravely on the battlefield go to Valhalla. The entrance to Helheim is guarded by Garm, a monstrous hound, and Modgud. The giant Hraesvelg (“corpse eater”) sits at the edge of the world, overlooking Helheim. In the form of an eagle with flapping wings he makes the wind blow. “Jormundgand” holds the Norwegian sound of the early-mid nineties dearly, having been recorded in Grieghallen, 1995. Unlike the band’s later experimentation years, Helheim’s debut is scourging, intense black metal, strongly influenced by Norse Mythology in appearance and conceptual approach. All the lyrics are written in Norwegian and the vocalist Hrimgrimnir shrieks his voice out, freezing the atmosphere even more. The sound of the record is iconically harsh and there are tempo changes from the mostly fast moments to some slower parts. Using trumpets, keys and a harp shows the band’s intentions to add more layers to their music, which still remains rough anyhow. The track “Galder” (which is actually a CD bonus) is limited to screams and dreary programming sounds while “Jotnevandring” goes with fast piano playing and the same vocals, showing Helheim’s unusual notions even back then. Not to mention the third track “Nidr Ok Nordr Liggr Helvegr” which has eerie melodies and ethereal vocals that would perfectly fit in a viking ritual ceremony. Even today, one can’t easily find black-viking metal albums as aggressive as this and considering it’s age, I would say it’s one of the first that came around. Enslaved come to mind and they’re the only pair I can think, since Windir established themselves in 1997 and chose more folkish lines from time to time. Falkenbach’s debut “…en their medh ríki fara…” was released in 1996 and also contains more melodic lines. All the aformentioned releases are highly enjoyed and if you like them too, Helheim and “Jormundgand” is another piece to go down to.