Velnias, has quite a lot to say. And the more I listen to it, the more of what it has to say is revealed. I have to think this is by design.
At first listen, it is immediately obvious that this is the band's most ambitious and accomplished recording by far. I must stress "by far." This is not to say that Velnias's previous recordings weren't any good; in fact, they're quite good, and I've been a Velnias fan for years. But RuneEater is a special album, by a band with a very special vision that has now made itself known to those that dig deep enough into the music. That they have a special vision has been true since the band's inception, but I feel that this time around, they've managed to incorporate that vision wholly into the music to create an album that tells many stories deep and dark. Personally, vision is something that I feel is very important, especially for this kind of band, and perhaps I read too much into these things; it's been suggested to me that I take music too seriously at times, but I don't think I'm stretching at all to claim that Velnias is a band of pure, unique vision. And from the packaging to the artwork, from the music to the lyrics, that vision is manifest in RuneEater.
In the band's own words, "Velnias exists as a an entity in opposition to this misguided and
failing modern world. The music is a reflection of man's falling and the
grandeur of that which he has forsaken." That simple "mission statement" of sorts says a lot in and of itself, but with RuneEater, Velnias has wandered into denser territory, sonically and conceptually.
From the album's introductory song, "Velnio Maldavimas / Grandeur's Desolation" it is clear that Velnias has gone after a richer, more vibrant sound, and they have definitely achieved it. Their atmospheric approach to metal, which incorporates elements of black metal, doom, and acoustic folk music, is nothing revolutionary, but the songs themselves are sublime works of art, written and played in
such a way that the primal spirit that they embody could not possibly be
oppressed, no matter how they were recorded. The production on this record is extravagant as well. The fact that it was recorded to 2" tape and then cut straight to the lacquers certainly contributes; while we celebrate vinyl and analog formats, the fact is that much of the music that is pressed on vinyl and cassette these days is recorded digitally. Velnias cut no such corners here, and that fact is quite evident in the sound of the final product.
The riffs on RuneEater reflect a certain melancholy rage - existential rage, perhaps - a feeling that would be expected given how the band describes itself. But what makes this record so special, and so important, I think, is that they never waive the white flag. No compromise, no surrender. Humanity has ultimately failed, and it sits in untimely despair, having destroyed itself as much as it could. But given that humanity is such a small part of the grandeur of the world it inhabits, it won't be in vain. Never shall the beauty perish. This theme is apparent in the artwork (the triple gatefold is simply majestic), the music, and the lyrics.
Now time the thief has taken his toll, though the blood that stains his hands shall never have run for nothing. For never, but never, shall I turn away from the brilliance of our flame.
- "Reverend Flames of Antiquity"
I can't say enough good things about this album. It stands as one of the true masterpieces of 2012, and if you don't have it, you really should. You don't have to take my word for it though; you can stream the album for free, or support the band by downloading it from their Bandcamp.
When you're ready to buy the physical artifact of this album, you can do so through Pesanta Urfolk. Available on LP or CD.