Steve O - February 24, 2016
V is for Vreid
Indie Recordings, 2009
World War II as a topic has been beaten to death over and over and over again. Having worked at a library, where that particular section is beyond overflowing, and a bookstore, where I was in charge of military history no less, where WWII took up half the section, I feel I can say this with a high degree of confidence. It’s a topic that culturally we’re obsessed with, maybe for that idea of fighting the ultimate bad guy. It hasn’t worked its way into becoming a common lyrical topic for metal bands though (I don’t count NSBM), despite their obsession with violence and gore. Bands like Sabaton, who lyrically take on the whole of military history, or Eastern Front, whose lyrical focus should be somewhat obvious, are nowhere near as common as bands worshipping the lyrical stylings of Cannibal Corpse or Carcass.
Which leads us to Vreid, Norwegian for “wrath.” Rising from the frozen ashes of Windir, Vreid play a melodic black metal, with tints of folk, and tell you about Norwegian history. But instead of focusing on the Viking Era, which if you’re a metal band is the average move, they relate a more recent era: Norway during WWII. The title of the record itself, Milorg, was a Norwegian resistance group during the war. Vreid set the stage with “Alarm,” and its calm synth intro, the calm before the storm, when air raid sirens wail and the guitars start to chug along, and then the black metal blasts away, with Sture’s shriek telling us of Nazi Germany’s rise and invasion of Norway. “Cause every way you turn / You can see how Europe burns / Contradictory to our leaders pray / The war has entered Norway.” “Alarm” is an epic nine minutes, and settles into some calmer moments, really creating a soundscape, a visualization of the story Vreid is telling. It’s the kind of song that would fit wonderfully over some old, grainy footage of planes flying and bombs exploding. Other songs, like “Speak Goddamnit” also have no problem incorporating this calmer feel into the music, before exploding again. “Speak Goddamnit” is a part of the record's theme of Norwegian resistance, and just like many songs here, lends itself to be laid over some grainy video footage from this era. Milorg is just as fitting as a soundtrack to some history documentary as it is to being a part of your black metal playlist.
If “Alarm” portrays Norway’s entrance into World War II, the end of the record, particularly “Blücher,” “Heroes & Villains,” and “Milorg” highlight Norwegian resistance and their fight back. “Blücher” is about the attack on a German ship, while “Milorg” informs the listener of the resistance that is occurring. “Heroes & Villains” is about the split that occurs within a population that becomes divided along such rigid lines as Norway’s was during this period. While it’s ostensibly about World War II, it is a theme that is not simply limited to that conflict. Vreid take on a universally human conflict in this song, and frame it in the lens of what happened to their country. It's just another part of the history lesson contained on Milorg. If that’s your kind of thing, given the record a listen while following along with the lyrics to complete the lesson.