What on earth is a Hyperborean? I had to look that up, can’t know everything, right? In short, it is a Northerner, a dude from the frozen tundras plagued by wind and ice. But before all Finns and Inuits start their lucky dance, just hold on for a minute. In Greek mythology, it’s all about those folks living in a place of perpetual sunshine beyond the reach of the God of the North Wind. There, take that, ye metal folks. I like that one better, some sort of Garden of Eden 3.0, complete with pickled herring and potent clear spirits in endless supply. Ha!
Fer de Lance1) reached our turntables back in 2020 with their neat EP Colossus. But despite their promise that they’d deliver a full-length record speedily, it took them until the terrible year of the Dark Lord 2022. And already back then we were fascinated by the somewhat pigheaded style that won’t worry too much about the broken egos of die-hard metalheads. But that’s what we like over here.
Their debut full-length record The Hyperborean is no different. In a way, you’ll get some sort of Viking Metal for grownups. A tale of marine errands, lion cages, and arctic storms. Until they finally reach that aforementioned Fiddler’s Green for the frozen ones, you know, that thing with the sunshine.
If anything, their wares are now way meatier. You’ll yet again get that impression of slow-motion Power Metal. That crazily tilted feeling that Iron Maiden somehow lurks in the background, the beast on the prowl. But you can never quite see them. In other words, they ply the vast seas of the Trad and Heavy Metal corner of metalheads’ nirvana with a penchant towards the fantasy folks.
If only there wouldn’t be those Bathory-like riffs2) that constantly knocked us off course. But actually, those work extremely well with MP‘s relentless clear voice shouted vocals. The frequent injections of acoustic guitar into the fray add much-needed spice. And – last but not least – those evoke a folksy flavor into a decidedly mystical piece. The record also often indulges in some passages of sudden prog and – yes – folk, just to disintegrate into some insanely powerful solo or two.
The Hyperborean sports a powerful delivery that flows on an equally powerful theme. And – as always – this truly adds to the quality of the piece. This already starts with the short instrumental opener Aurora Borealis that – by the way – juicily seconds the cover art. But you’ll get a true taste of the essence of the record once The Mariner hits your shores. The track sports a powerful progression that majestically leads into the first installment of MP’s powerful vocals.
Large swathes of The Hyperborean are dominated by some slow-motion metallics. A heavy, grindingly brutal stomp that – yet again – fits the theme perfectly. Pieces like Sirens or the excellent Northern Skies roared on repeat out of our music machine for a long time. The latter takes off with a folksy little intro and some reluctant drumming which then – in turn progresses into heavy riffing that practically pictures that menacing vision of a Northern weather front complete with aurorae. And all that floats in on a tasty succession of ambient acoustics and heavy metal.
Yet often, the record has a tendency to linger somewhat when the Northern winds should push it forward swiftly. In other words, an astute clipping of some of those loose ends would have led to a much crisper record. In addition, a dud or two made their appearance. Such as the somewhat boring Ad Bestia that only saved its growly bacon with a stellar last-minute solo. And by Jove, it is stellar.
Ultimately though, The Hyperborean truly stands proud as the big brother of the aforementioned Colossus. The RMR crew found true progression in quality if not in musical prowess. Some of the more fervent metalheads I know may take exception to the abundant use of acoustics and a somewhat scratchy production at times. Yet, this record resounded nicely at the RMR office tower. Well-paced, meaty, sturdy, varied, and often reasonably brutal with a theme that the listener is actually able to understand without having to do a PhD. In short, a well-rounded record with a mystical twist.