River of Souls – The Well of Urd (2017) – Review

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Don’t we like the old deities at RockmusicRaider. Those that existed before the nailed god and his ailing airs sucked all fun out of life. Back in time when Yule ruled strong, with feasting and a sacrifice or two on the menu. 

Sturdy tales galore of gods and their brethren out to commit mischief and strange actions of all types. Odin on Sleipnir (his horse), Njord, Yggdrasil, and the three Norns living in the roots of the tree of life. All this fed by the Well of Urd at the source of it all.

Complicated, huh?

This may be so, but the old ones were definitely much more interesting than the current occupants of the godly throne. With their earthly representatives weirdly howling about vast, empty buildings filled with scented smoke.

River of Souls and their debut album The Well of Urd extend a strange allure. It is not that they invented the wheel of metal or something. But their newest record extends this strange pull that will make you flock back to the disk for more, time and again. Yet, the RMR officescape almost gave them a C- at first, for the sin of skimming off the mainstream.

And for cause, methinks.

The record evokes this doomy taste of Khemmis, yet decorated mostly with growls and only a smattering of clear voice. Of early Rotting Christ in their incarnation of the long-defunct Triarchy of the Lost Lovers. And of My Silent Wake in their Doom Death Metal robe, blended with a pretty hefty dose of Insomnium.

And did I not detect some passages that sail dangerously close to where early Iron Maiden already was?

By this token, The Well of Urd sits straight in the misty depths of Doom Death Metal, Melodic Death Metal, and their ilk. With just enough melody and a few progressive elements to please the ear. And that was the simple (or simplistic) description of their piece of work.

Because in the end, whilst the album moves around the Death Doom genre, River of Souls injected a whole bunch of other elements into their tune. To describe those in detail would just bore the audience to tears, so we’ll give it a pass this time.

And they step right into the album.

Apart from a one-minute intro stunt, no other such shenanigans are audible. And I salute the band for it. These insufferable endless intros the genre likes to adorn their albums with often just manage to piss me off. 

The first track The Norn’s Chant is already a good example. No nonsense metal mixed into a doomish robe, flavored with sprinklings of the aforementioned Insomnium. And with a pretty cool solo to boot. Or the meaty Earthfather that solemnly marches forward. Supported by staunch riffing, this track sports this savvy mix of clear voice and growls together with some very discreet keys thrown in.

Now, none of the tracks on The Well of Urd are shorter than 5 minutes. This usually is a sign of good quality for any album. Yet, here we detect a certain inherent lengthiness that some of the tracks don’t really deserve.

Endlessly stretching out riffs or wrapping some progression around loops does not really help matters. This also brings with it a hint of déjà-vu as the tracklist progresses, a tendency to gripe that is unnecessary in an album of this quality. 

On the upside, the tracks on The Well of Urd are well constructed with lyrics that actually deserve their calling. The band definitely paid a lot of attention to detail. And it shows: As River of Souls progress down the title track, the album even takes on steam towards mid-point.

Starting with Servitor or the staunch The Unbending One. Now, SoilSorcerer, the very last track, really represents the essence of this album. If anything this track should have been at the beginning, but who am I, right?

To conclude, it is very apparent that The Well of Urd is the brainchild of seasoned musicians. River of Souls let loose an album that leaves little to chance in terms of quality, songwriting or execution. 

Stout riffing, elegant solos and a savvy exchange of growls and clean vocals lead to an album that should be worthy of your attention. By freely mixing different style elements into their blender, they produced an alluring, yet slightly unusual record. And we do fancy them albums that are a trifle askew and outside the proverbial box.

And so should you. 

Record Rating: 6/10 | Label: Self-Released | Web: Facebook (band)
Release date: 2 September 2017

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