Beyond The North Winds
This is one of the most outstanding records I have heard in 2008. Their debut album exuded quality and, having previously exchanged emails with the man behind the music, I knew the moment I learnt of its availability, that this new opus would be something remarkable. Despite my high expectations, however, these were quickly exceeded by what came out of my speakers. "Beyond The North Winds" is in a similar style as its predecessor - it is still Folky Black Metal, blending the Nordic Metal style of yore with brilliant acoustic passages, synth ambience, and folky riffing - but it is notably superior, in terms of the song writing and the capacity of the melodies to completely absorb the listener and transport him away from the modern world. Not only that, but musicianship is stellar, and we can hear dazzling guitar solos thrown in, both in amplified and acoustic forms. These features are further enhanced by a crystalline production, which balances the heavy, distorted, crunch of the electric guitars against the scintillating acoustic arpeggios. From the references to the "ruins of the modern world" and brief correspondence, it is clear SIG:AR:TYR draws its inspiration from Radical Traditionalism, of which Guenon and Evola were well-known proponents; this is by no means unusual in the sense, but, it does suggest that the artistic activity in this case is underpinned by a higher level of intellectual sophistication. Certainly we cannot complain about the artwork, whose minimal excellence is well in accord with the general feel and atmosphere of the compositions. Giving this a miss in favour of something else would be hard to defend. AK-47, Supernal Music
(8.5/10) Sig:Ar:Tyr is possibly the most underrated project within the pagan metal underground. Part of the reason is his signing to the minute Morbid Winter Records, which really doesn't have the funds to adequately promote his work, and he would be better suited on Napalm Records. If you want proof of his suitability, you need look no further than this or debut predecessor, _Sailing the Seas of Fate_. His sophomore effort picks up where the last left off, incorporating a few incremental changes, such as greater focus on metallic soundscapes, fewer acoustic passages and more frequent vocals, but I have a feeling the latter was added somewhat reluctantly; sole member Daemonskald is an axeman above all else, with considerable skills on acoustic, rhythm and lead guitar. The drumming remains rudimentary, and his compositions would be better served with the assistance of a session musician to provide more complex patterns that enhanced the song but did not detract markedly from the guitars. Nor will he win any awards for his singing, but his arrangements, melodies and technical skill are such that these are rather minor complaints. The album ends with a beautiful ballad, "Far Away"; and while Daemonskald may not consider it one of his better songs in terms of technicality, it is a wistful song that remains one of the highlights on an album littered with many. Quentin Kalis - Chronicles of Chaos
(9/10) [English Translation] En cette obscure aube d’hiver, depuis la terre recouverte par le gel, depuis les majestueuses montagnes veillant avec sérénité, depuis l’indomptable masse aquatique s’étendant au-delà des rivages, depuis les forêts encore immergées dans le brouillard, l’appel se fit entendre. Plus mystérieux, plus fort, plus insistant… L’appel du large, de la découverte, l’appel de la terre vierge, du voyage, de l’émotion. L’heure n’était plus aux hésitations ; il fallait partir. A la conquête des océans incertains, des forêts toujours calfeutrées dans l’épaisseur de la brume, des montagnes obscures et de leurs merveilleux secrets. Partir loin, très loin, à la conquête de cet univers inconnu et enchanteur, s’éloigner jusqu’à n’être plus qu’une tache sombre noyée dans un horizon de cendres.
Impensable ! Incroyable ! Une telle métamorphose tient du prodige ! Qui aurait pu penser en découvrant « Sailing the seas of fate » en 2005 que Sig:ar:tyr serait à ce point capable de se réinventer au point d’évoquer et de susciter des panoramas aussi grandioses ? Daemonskald, seul homme aux commandes de son puissant navire et unique pourvoyeur de trames sonores, a su passer d’une musique ambient et minimaliste avec des passages folk/Metal à un vrai Viking Metal enchanteur, d’une bien plus grande envergure, proposant une évasion spectaculaire dans un univers d’une insondable richesse, comme bien peu en seraient capables. Tout simplement éblouissant !
Que ceux qui cherchaient un successeur au Bathory d’ « Hammerheart » ou une alternative à Falkenbach dans la catégorie « Viking Metal qui mise sur les ambiances et le charme du dépaysement plutôt que sur l’agression sonore » se précipitent sur cet opus. Sig:ar:tyr vous offrira généreusement l’absolution, le voyage si ardemment désiré. Comment ne pas tomber en arrêt devant la pureté des lignes de guitare de « Sword From an Unknown Hand » ? Comment ne pas se prosterner devant cette utilisation presque martiale de l’acoustique, maniée avec puissance et originalité comme seuls Agalloch et Primordial savent habituellement le faire ? Et ce mélange d’influences si bien digérées qui permet la véritable naissance d’une nouvelle référence… On croit rêver !
Car ce one-man-band canadien au fascinant patronyme composé de nom de runes s’impose directement en tête du peloton. Misant énormément sur l’acoustique, présente dans chaque morceau, tantôt plus délicate et mélancolique, tantôt efficace et bien rythmée… L’homme maîtrise son art à la perfection. Mais attention, l’électrique sait aussi se faire entendre et fournit quelques riffs et lignes rythmiques tout bonnement suprêmes, immortels. Les soli, quant à eux, sont d'un niveau technique hallucinant, et contiennent des passages véloces dignes des plus grands guitar heroes. Et même si les tempos ne dépassent jamais le mid, l’ennui semble tout simplement proscrit, interdit de séjour sur ces terres de légende.
Les claviers, que ce soit en fond sonore où leur son évoque des chœurs masculins fantomatiques et confère toute leur majesté à ces odes nordiques, ou en leads (comme sur l’introduction épique de « King of the world », m’évoquant le dernier opus d’Ancient Rites) sont employés de manière irréprochable, avec beaucoup de justesse, sans jamais donner dans le kitsch ou la surenchère. Quant au chant ; il reste peu présent, mais le murmure qui parcourait le premier album a ici fait place à un chant clair simple, pas tout à fait juste, mais prenant et émotionnel, alternant avec un chant black âpre et étrange, manquant peut-être un peu de puissance, mais encore une fois, utilisé avec goût et à-propos.
Et les morceaux de s’enchaîner pour notre plus grand plaisir. Chacun contient son charme, son lot d’émotions. Cependant, s’il ne fallait n’en citer qu’un, je retiendrais l’extraordinaire « Etched In Stone ». Riff black irrésistible, break mystique à couper le souffle, et cette aura si unique… Un bijou de Pagan/Viking Metal. La ballade « Far away », tout en chant clair, saura aussi émouvoir les plus sensibles d’entre vous. Seul morceau plus faible, « The Way », avec une mise en avant du chant un peu maladroite, et des sonorités et soli typés hard/heavy 80’s pas déplaisants en soi, mais un peu en décalage avec la majesté de l’opus.
Bon, d’accord, je m’emporte… Mais croyez-moi, cet album en vaut la peine ! Et quand bien même les variations sont peu nombreuses et confèrent à l’œuvre une dimension peut-être trop monolithique ou monotone, une fois embarqués, impossible de s’échapper, Sig :ar :tyr vous emporte corps et âme, pour un voyage vraiment inoubliable. L’un des albums de l’année pour moi, cela va sans dire. Heading North !! Gounouman - Heavy Law
(9/10) Two years ago a one-man project from London, Ontario, had caught my attention by adding plenty of acoustic guitars to Viking Metal, this creating a very interesting and intense atmosphere that reminded me of BATHORY more than once, but all that while being anything but a copy. “Sailing The Seas Of Fate” was the album, SIG:AR:TYR the band and when I received their second stroke “Beyond The North Winds”, I was more than happy to put it into the player, hoping for a continuation of the original sound they had come up with.
Well, I did get that and then some, because mastermind Daemonskald actually upped the Metal portion without sacrificing the acoustic guitar influence and also delivers more vocals, both the gruff and also the clear kind, further spicing up the already atmospheric songs and taking them to the next level. So thanks to the added elements, everything sounds even more epic and majestic and at times very brooding and ominous, now showing the full potential of this gentleman.
“Beyond The North Winds” sounds as if it came straight from the feather of Quorthon (and this NOT referring to it sounding like a copy, but of the same class), with the playful acoustic beginning, before the electric guitars and drums add to it, carrying the hoarse whisper and clear voice, indeed conjuring up images of the windswept shores of the North Sea, the fjords, the white-capped waves, the winds rushing through, bending the trees’ limbs and the weathered faces of the Northmen staring out from the shoreline, a masterpiece!
Also the way that Daemonskald varies these elements is worth mentioning, as he keeps things fresh throughout and I believe that it is this approach that is what makes “Beyond The North Winds” this true winner, because not only stays it fresh, but also varied enough to keep your attention throughout the course of the album, as he now has more options by balancing the acoustic and electric side of things, same, of course, goes for the different vocal styles as well. Just listen to “Etched In Stone”, where the simple acoustic guitar that is laid over the Viking Metal plod in some passages adds a completely new dimension to the song, somehow making it sound more organic, more like nature, that’s what I am talking about, as odd as it may read now.
I also love “The Way (The Path Less Chosen)”, where the interaction between the acoustics and electrics are just excellent and Daemonskald delivers one of his most inspired vocal performances as well (he still is no part of the crème de la crème of vocalists, but he still is very good on this one), it might just as well epitomize the sound of SIG:AR:TYR in a nutshell.
The album has pristine artwork, befitting the majestic nature of the contents, same goes for the clear production, which allows the balance of the extremes to shine as brightly as it does here. SIG:AR:TYR definitely are one of the most original acts in this genre and I wish that a wider audience would take notice of them, as they would deserve any attention they can get, I love this album and so should you! Alex - Metal Observer
(8.5/10) The power of expression is something that takes years to master, and when it comes to making music, I can only imagine the dilemma most bands face to reach that particular sounds. Now imagine being the sole member of a band? SIG:AR:TYR's Daemonskald is that, one man with a journey for musical exploration and creativity. Having appeared in the pages of U! two times already, it's obvious we're fans and why wouldn't we be? His glorious atmospheric music gently glides alongside lush acoustic passages with one track, then next a fiery black metal number, the following a Bathory-esque number that showcases haunting choruses. If you a fan of Enslaved, Woods of Ypres, Vintersorg, Agalloch, and that acoustic/black metal sound, then you'll dig this. And the guitar work? Excellent fucking guitar work a la Yngwie Malmsteen-but done at the right moments and with the right feel. When you listen to the guitar work on "Etched In Stone" then you'll know what I mean. I've been listening to this album nonstop for the last two days prior to my review and I never grew tired of it. It's worthy of all the continuous praise it gets. Adrian Bromley - Unrestrained Magazine
(8/10) SIG:AR:TYR is an oddly named one man act from the frozen tundra of Ontario. The one man goes by the name Daemonskald and delivers slow rocking, but consistently intriguing folk metal. It is a genre that is probably past the point of overdone but we don't get a whole lot of metal from Canada so give him a chance will you?
SIG:AR:TYR plays with a number of different moods, taking inspiration both from ambient and viking acts. The first track “King of the World” begins some nice Egyptian-sounding synth work before kicking into the mid tempo heavy chords that characterize much of the album. The rhythms get more interesting from there and occasionally give way to solid acoustic work.
The lyrics are viking in nature, probably derivative, but are somewhat interesting, and Daemonskald delivers them in a variety of vocal styles. He has a distinct voice and I thought there might be multiple singers at work the first time I heard it.
“Pale Autumnal Moon” and “Sword From an Unknown Hand” feature good acoustic guitar work, but really feel like filler tracks. That is, not bad, but skippable when you want to get to the meat of the album. Songs like the title track “Beyond the North Winds” and “Under the Mountain” each clock in at over eight minutes, and while that isn't necessarily bad, seem to reach that length in much the same way that Opeth would, playing each riff over and over. Still they each feature a number of interesting segments and so you have to listen through to get a gist for the song.
The album really hits a high note on one of the last songs “The Way.” This is where the song kicks from mid tempo to pretty epic, probably what that slower plod has been building to this whole time. Opening with a fast acoustic riff, the heavy guitars kick in, then give way to his most echo-y full singing yet. Daemonskald hits the high notes here and should elicit at least a head nod from even the most anti-scene scenester.
If he plays around with this sound more on his next album, breaking up the more monotonous parts with a little power and speed, we might have an Epic Win on our hands. For now he's at least worth checking out. Kiel - Autothrall.blogspot.com
(4.25/5) Sig:Ar:Tyr is yet another interesting project I discovered on Myspace. When multi-instrumentalist Daemonskald contacted me, and offered the possibility to review his new release, I was more than happy to cover it...
Beyond the North Winds is picking up pretty much where Sailing the Seas of Fate left off. To my greatest pleasure, Daemonskald still uses a lot of acoustic guitars in his song structure, thus giving his Viking Metal a nicely melodic and folksy touch. There is no single song that is not graced by those greatly organic sounds, here again to my selfish pleasure. The distorted and beefed up electric guitar and keyboard passages increase the epic feel of this album. One can hear the result of mature songwriting on Beyond the North Winds. As was also the case on the previous album, the fast acoustic leads make quite a few notes undecipherable, something I found unfortunate. The vocals range from a raspy whisper to a clean/epic style, and on the closing track, "Far Away", I could hear similarities with the Moody Blues, which is quite cool actually! No blast beats or furious paces, but a very appropriate mid to mid-fast one was carefully chosen by mastermind Daemonklad. The opening song, "King of the World", also involves Oriental tones, beside being one of my favorite compositions. To the list, I can easily add a good number of numbers such as "Sword From an Unknown Hand" and "Among the Ruins" (two very nice instrumentals); the already mentioned "Far Away" as well as the title track.
Beyond the North Winds is another very good opus of Folk/Viking Metal from the Great White North. Pagan Shadow - Metal Crypt
(4/5) Sailing the Seas Of Fate était un premier voyage dans un Nord désert et monotone, et nous aspirant dans son hiver invariable. Beyond The North Winds est la suite, voir l'aboutissement de ce premier voyage. Le marin, seul dans son bateau, se prend à rêver d'ailleurs, d'un soleil chaud, de ce qu'il y avait avant le départ, et à ce qu'il trouvera à l'arrivée. Il y a un goût de rêve et de conquête, et l'arrière-goût froid et amer de la solitude, les souvenirs et les espoirs recouverts par une brume épaisse.
Beyond The North Winds n'a pas perdu la sensibilité de son prédécesseur, ni même la réserve toujours hallucinante dont fait preuve son auteur. Pour être plus clair, STSOF était un album osé, et son minimalisme satisfaisait les moyens du bord, qui n'avaient qu'une prétention infime: raconter sobrement un mythe, inviter à l'évasion avec un travail d'écriture instinctif autant que prolifique, timide mais d'une profondeur des plus touchantes. Mais là où STSOF plongeait dans une expérimentation (l'électrique, l'acoustique, un chuchotement de fond, et c'est tout) que beaucoup ont dû trouver insuffisante, Beyond The North Winds au contraire, offre toujours plus à chaque écoute.
Daemonskald crée davantage de cohérences entre les parties métalliques et acoustiques, étire ses compositions à la manière d'un MOONSORROW pour que l'écouteur patient intègre son monde. Une rythmique souvent lente et hypnotisante est désormais clairement audible et structure plus clairement les morceaux, le seul murmure poétique qui s'évadait de Sailing The Seas Of Fate ne parcours l'album que ça et là, alterné par un chant clair déclamé de premier choix ou une voix black âpre et mystérieuse.
Dans la forme, la grande différence vient d'un son bien plus metallisé (STSOF n'étant parfois ni plus ni moins que de l'ambient avec un fond de distorsion) et de compositions plus longues et variables. Là où les repères pouvaient manquer sur le premier album, ici ils sont clairs, à droite à gauche des noms nous viennent en têtes : BATHORY (« King Of The World »), encore et toujours, FALKENBACH, lorsque le riff d'« Under The Mountains » vient rejoindre celui du grandiose « Farewell », PRIMORDIAL pour cette lenteur metallique alliée à un rendu presque martial de l'acoustique (« The Way »), les premiers AGALLOCH, pour ce folklore aux couleurs « pâles » et brumeuses, qui semble être la pierre d'angle de l'édifice.
Car des albums avec de tels passages acoustiques, si vous en connaissez, s'il vous plaît, faites m'en part ! Daemonskald à la guitare sèche, c'est un rendu émotif lourd de sens, de quelques simples accords au solo orientalisant. Et l'acoustique prend d'autant plus de sens qu'il est clairement ancré à des parties metal limpides, plus sobres (quoiqu'on ait le droit à quelques très bons soli également !) mais plantant sans relâche ce décor sombre, ce fond de colère dormante, une rage toujours recouverte par un voile glacial, dilué dans un fond d'air parfois orageux, parfois hivernal. Même quand semble venir l'aurore, on en garde des frissons... « Far Away » devrait vous en assurer. Par ses côtés plus formel, « Beyond The North Winds » côtoie les plus grosses pointures, et parvient néanmoins à garder les lignes de conduites de Sailing The Seas Of Fate : pas de superflu, seulement nous et cette présence sacrée, mystique, reportée à l'essentiel, débarrassée de ses stéréotypes et de sa superbe, et qui a pourtant énormément à donner. Seuls Un « The Way (The Path Less Chosen) » et quelques longueurs ça et là me feront passer juste à côté de la note maximale.
Une ode au Nord (avec un grand N, j'insiste) par un musicien des plus inspirés. Volthard - Nightfall in Metal Earth (translate)
(77/100) Ulteriore miglioramento per i Sig:Ar:Tyr, one-man band canadese giunta al secondo disco (ancora sotto l'egida della Morbid Winter Records) con questo “Beyond the North Winds” che testimonia i progressi fatti da Daemonskald in questi ultimi tre anni soprattutto per quanto riguarda la composizione e l'ampliamento musicale della sua proposta. In realtà il sound è mutato solo nei dettagli, e non nell'impostazione generale, rispetto a “Sailing the Seas of Fate”, in quanto la proposta dei Sig:Ar:Tyr rimane un Viking Metal legato ad atmosfere vicine ai Bathory, fortemente caratterizzato dalla dualità tra acustico ed elettrico. La chitarra classica continua infatti a prendersi amplissimi spazi (molto superiori a quelli usualmente concessi a questo strumento nel genere), ma inferiori a quelli che aveva nelle precedenti release (essa era infatti l'assoluta protagonista nel demo “The Stranger” e la base di quasi tutti i pezzi in “Sailing the Seas of Fate”) in quanto nel nuovo album Daemonskald esalta l'importanza del riffing elettrico nella costruzione dei brani, ora dotati di un'impostazione più massiccia ed epica, seppur con l'acustica a comparire spessissimo come accompagnamento, introduzione oppure per brevi, intermittenti assoli atti a separare le varie sezioni dei brani – da appassionato di Yngwie Malmsteen e del metal anni '80 (l'impronta delle varianti classiche del Metal è netta, ed è la principale responsabile dell'accostamento Bathoriano fatto in precedenza), il canadese non tralascia l'importanza dei solos, pur non esagerando mai e rimanendo sempre ben accorto nel collegare le sue divagazioni chitarristiche con la gelida e notturna atmosfera Pagan che permea i suoi lavori. La compiutezza del nuovo suono è data anche dalla maggiore varietà vocale: ai ringhi sporchi e rauchi e alle parti narrate si aggiunge infatti la tanto attesa voce pulita, che si dimostra di discreto livello e capace di dare maggior respiro ai pezzi più classicamente epici, quale ad esempio “Under the Mountain”. Migliorato, inoltre, l'apporto della batteria, meglio realizzata rispetto alla monotona programmazione del precedente album, ed è oculato anche l'accompagnamento delle tastiere, lineare ma efficace nel sostenere (con sonorità ombrose e corali) le partiture di chitarra, sia durante le canzoni Metal che durante gli intermezzi acustici: permangono, infatti, episodi interamente dedicati alla chitarra classica, quali i solitari e malinconici “Pale Autumnal Moon”, “Sword From An Unknown Hand” o “Among The Ruins”, mentre risulta una ballad a tutti gli effetti la conclusiva “Far Way” (non lontana dai Falkenbach più Folk), forse un po' scontata nelle musiche e nelle parole, ma davvero piacevolissima oltre che capace di aprire ulteriori orizzonti (da personalizzare e sviluppare debitamente) al progetto canadese. Il brano finale, tanto semplice e banale quanto struggente e accattivante, mette a nudo forse l'unica mancanza di “Beyond the North Winds”, ovvero quella di una (o più) melodia che spicchi sulle altre, poiché i brani d'estrazione Metal, ben realizzati e capaci di non stancare nonostante la durata corposa (sette minuti ed oltre), si somigliano tutti abbastanza e manca il riff elettrico che conquisti per particolari meriti o armonie vincenti, facendo risaltare la canzone che lo contiene. Poco male, a livello di atmosfera il disco è validissimo (con musiche, liriche e immagini del booklet a formare un quadro coerente e affascinante), ed è vivamente consigliato sia come primo approccio ai Sig:Ar:Tyr, che a chi già conosce la band: “Beyond the North Winds” segna una buona progressione rispetto al debutto e lascia presagire ulteriori passi in avanti per il futuro. Gioele Nasi - Rockline.it
SIG:AR:TYR is the one man project of Daemonskald, Canadian lover of all things Viking. Being a one man project, SIG:AR:TYR has become an outlet for Daemonskald’s musings on the mysteries of life and spiritual experiences. The name is an ancient rune word meaning Chaos-Balance-Order. These forces form the core materials of existence according to pagan traditions. On his official website, Daemonsklad describes SIG:AR:TYR as being dedicated to “the dark, grim history and mythology of Northern Europe.” His latest effort, Beyond the Northern Winds, continues the stylistic progression of his previous releases by creating an ambient sound with a strong emphasis on traditional metal riffs and Wagnerian sized doses of passionate folk elements.
At the foundation of this second full length release rests in the liberal use of heavily distorted guitars followed close in toe by no less intense acoustic harmonies. It is a nice blend of the two styles some of his fans can’t decide which they enjoy more. Things here should keep them happy. The drums, for the most part, are fairly unremarkable at their slow, plodding pace, but fit the ambient style well. Atmospheric keyboard work also plays an important role, taking three minutes to introduce the opening track, comprising almost the entirety of others, or simply doing its magic off in the distance somewhere. In all instances, the keyboards are quite pleasant and do much to capture the sense of grim mystery Daemonskald seems to be looking for.
As mentioned above, the interplay of acoustic and distorted guitars is masterfully accomplished and creates entrancing melodies of contrast. Imagine the deafening roar of a lion and the chirping of a bird engaged in a duet and you’ll get an idea for what I mean. The contrasting sounds not only play well off one another, but one is rarely overpowering. Both are always clearly present and in control. At times, though, one will permit the other to take center stage. There are three acoustic instrumental tracks on the album, and sometimes the acoustic guitars will disappear entirely from a song. Acoustic solos grace many of the tracks as well, and while well conceived, often blur into a series of imperceptible notes making the beauty of their construction difficult to decipher.
Daemonskald’s vocals are another strong point of the album. Previously, Daemonsklad went for a more spoken word approach with the occasional raspy intonations here and there. On Beyond the Northern Winds, things are very much the opposite. Harsh vocals are more pronounced and prevalent, fitting with the newfound heaviness. His voice also shifts into a subdued but classically styled sound falling short of the spoken word but still managing to carry a note. The lyrics themselves are thoughtful and in my mind never forced or awkward. Again, fitting for the style of play.
Overall, Beyond the Northern Wind is another superb release from a creative guy with a lot of talent. Fortunately, poor acoustic solos do little to mire an otherwise strong interplay of sharply contrasting guitars which combine to create epic melodies. The electric solos also do a lot to make up for the poor showing of their counterpart. Pagan mythological themes are presented in an abstract fashion and suit the overall ambient tones. You might say we have enough Viking inspired ambient folk metal, but Daemonskald manages to represent the content in a refreshing, more intelligent manner than those who have come before. Beyond the North Winds has easily become one of my favorites for 2008.Stephen Teichgraeber - Metal Ex Nihilo Blog
Semivivus - Valhalla Promotions
(4.5/5) In the past, Daemonskald has shown us he doesn’t like always doing the same thing with his music. The Stranger, SIG:AR:TYR’s first EP was solely ambient acoustic guitars with some spoken sections. Next came his first full-length, Sailing The Seas Of Fate, that saw him taking the ambient acoustics from his first EP and adding some electric guitar and drums to create a new epic acoustic/metal sound but where the acoustic was dominant (as opposed to most other bands that play folk metal). Both the EP and the album were well received by the few that heard them. On Beyond The North Winds, SIG:AR:TYR’s musical progression continues with added vocal styles, more straightforward song writing, a slightly stronger penchant towards black metal and a more important use of the electric guitar to create a very diverse album that keeps the core of the sound created on the last album.
The album opens up with some symphonic keyboards and a slow ominous drumbeat. After about 3 minutes of this the first few acoustic guitar chords come in. Then you are hit with heavily distorted guitars; the acoustic guitars still going behind them. But then something happens. It is not something big but if you are a fan of SIG:AR:TYR’s previous work you will know that this small change is something completely new to the sound. The acoustic guitar disappears leaving way to distorted electric guitar riffs and a slow drumbeat. This is the first of many changes to appear on the album.
First of all, the acoustic guitar is much less present than on the last album. But its presence is still pretty big. Sailing The Seas Of Fate had a few songs that featured electric guitar but only one that was driven by it(Skuld); whereas, Beyond The North Winds has 4 songs that focus more on the electric guitar(King Of The World, Beyond The North Winds, Under The Mountain and Etched In Stone). Each of these songs features some acoustic guitar but it is used either as an interlude between different parts of the songs, to create a short melody over a rhythmic electric riff or as a rhythm guitar to complement one of the electric riffs.
To balance out this new found heaviness, the album features 3 instrumental acoustic songs (Pale Autumnal Moon, Sword From An Unknown Hand, Among The Ruins) and one acoustic ballad (Far Away). Pale Autumnal Moon revolves around some strummed chords with an ambient sound sample as a backdrop. Sword From An Unknown Hand starts off with some slow chord progressions and incorporates some acoustic soloing. Among The Ruins is easily the best of the three and features elements from both songs. One problem that has followed SIG:AR:TYR since the beginning of their discography reoccurs here also; this is with the acoustic solos. They often turn into a low, blur of notes which is sad because there seems to be much talent hidden beneath them but it is almost impossible to hear.
The Way creates a balance between the electric and acoustic side of the music with its happy sounding strummed verses and powerful electric choruses.
Now about the singing. Those of you that have heard his two previous works probably expect more of the same spoken vocals with maybe some occasional screaming (like on Urd and Skuld). This type of singing is only featured on the first track and even there it is harsher than before. The rest of the album is separated between high, raspy black metal-like screams and Daemonskald’s new found clean singing. His voice sounds like a less peppy version of an operatic power metal singer (see Under The Mountain for the best example of this). The operatic sound of his voice suits the slower pace of his music very well and provides diversity not featured on his previous works.
Overall: As stated earlier, Daemonskald has created a very diverse album. The songs range from instrumental acoustic (the three mentioned earlier) to black metal (Etched In Stone) to an acoustic ballad (Far Away) and even what could be considered a doom song (Under The Mountain). Lyrically the album revolves around nature and pagan mythology and is often written in a nice abstract way. But the lyrics falter drastically in Far Away where they cross the line into cheesiness. Instrumentally the album is very impressive. The acoustic and electric guitars intertwine to create unique melodies and epic songs. The electric guitar solos are always top-notch and always seem to come in at the right moment to add their own piece to the song. Sadly, the acoustic solos are often much harder to distinguish because the notes often come out sounding muffled. The drumming, although very simplistic, fits with the slower pace of the songs and allows the listener to focus more on the intertwining guitars and the lyrical content of the album.
Beyond The North Winds is another superb release by a band that has yet to disappoint. It shows and incredible amount of progression over past releases and manages to create something that is just as enjoyable while staying fresh and creative. A few minor flaws hold this back from a 5 (the acoustic solos and the cheesy lyrics of the acoustic ballad) but this will definitely stay near the top of my top albums of 2008. Simon Harris "Scream"- review from Sputnik Music