Heltekvad – Morgenrødens Helvedesherre Review

[Artwork: João de Sá from a 16th century anonymous Flemish painting, The King’s Fountain]

With Heltekvad, Ole Pedersen Luk of Afsky sacrifices little aggression in adopting a medieval theme. And though I am still not one hundred percent sold on the latter – I am getting there – Morgenrødens Helvedesherre is every bit as intense and engrossing as Ofte jeg drømmer mig død and Sorg.

Release date: March 25, 2022. Label: Eisenwald.
To an English (or simply non-Danish) speaker, Heltekvad’s incorporation of medieval themes is perhaps felt less acutely. But as someone who isn’t always so attentive to lyrics, the exercise of translating them online is a sort of forced assimilation. Unless, for some inexplicable reason, you’re hiring a native speaker to do the work for you, you’re using Google translate like me. Though the translations are often alphabet soup, there’s a bit of charm in the result. And it still gives you a vague but no less plausible idea of what the heck the maniac with the mic is agonizing over.

Heltekvad wastes no time establishing its sound. “Morgenrødens Åbenbaring” is a quick launch into melodious melancholy, propelled ever forward by drummer Simon Frenning Sørensen, whose contribution is perhaps even more Afsky-like than Luk’s. There’s an obvious dissonance at play. And the dynamics shift as the album progresses. But this first track is more aggressive enchantment, sans frills. It’s also the album’s second strongest song.

The purely musical introduction of the medieval theme comes courtesy of the album’s second song, “Ærbødig Er Den Som Sejrer.” None of the 30 medieval seconds sound like more than what you’d hear walking around a renaissance fair, but it’s effective at least setting a tone. And that’s the extent of the musical impact of the medieval theme. If there’s a slight disappointment here, that’s probably it. The listener wanting more of something—that’s no slight on this banger of an album.

Whereas Afsky seemingly operates more comfortably with longer tracks that allow for greater dynamism, Heltekvad sounds strongest in the short and fast bursts of “Morgenrødens Åbenbaring, “Eder Og Hæder,” and “Fornægter Din Æt.” Not that there aren’t tempo shifts in these three songs, but their fervor and tremolo-picked intensity creates an interesting contrast with the calm of the few medieval breaks.

Those expecting the folk influences of Afsky will likely be surprised by the relatively simpler approach Heltekvad takes here. Though most riffs wouldn’t sound out of place on Ofte jeg drømmer mig død or Sorg, there’s a more immediate payoff when Morgenrødens Helvedesherre kicks into high gear. It’s hard to say where this will fall by year’s end, but I have no doubt that I’ll be returning to songs like “Du Skæbnesvangre Stund” and “Fornægter Din Æ” often.

Posted by Chris C

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