Written by: AP on 10/01/2014 22:27:26

I wonder if, when Gothenburg born melodic death metal was at its zenith, people feared it was facing imminent saturation and, as a result, a descent into oblivion? I certainly find myself asking such questions about the next Swedish phenomenon; that which we began referring to as heritage rock over the past year or so. A reactionary movement with its origins in Witchcraft, the deluge has already swept across Scandinavia and the European mainland, spawning countless practitioners of the genre (with varying degrees of success of course), among them the meteoric Kadavar and, most prominently, Graveyard. Sweden and Germany, in particular, have unwittingly assumed an assembly line function in the formation of these types of bands, and one of the latest propositions to emerge from the conveyor belt is Vidunder, whose moniker translates to the noun-form of wonder.

What their self-titled debut album essentially sounds like, with the tiniest bit of differentiation, is their primary influence, the aforementioned Graveyard on their self-titled debut from 2007, giving rise to a bizarre kind of irony. The tone of the guitars, the analogue style of the production, and even the singing of Martin Prim are all like textbook excerpts from that album. "Graveyard" was of course imperfect, as Mr. Woolley noted, and especially upon its re-issue in the wake of 2011's breakthrough "Hisingen Blues" its flaws became exposed. But even so, the strength of its singles - "Evil Ways", "Thin Line" and "Don't Take Us for Fools" is far beyond any of the material heard on "Vidunder", which boasts an assortment of consistently decent, yet never extraordinary retro rock songs.

Dividing itself into two classes of song, "Vidunder" is equipped in equal parts with groovy rock'n'roll bangers à la "Into Her Grave" and "Asmodeus", and moody ballads drenched in blues, such as "Threefold" and "Beware the Moon". Coincidentally, and despite what my usage of the conjunctions à la and such as might suggest, these four also represent the standout moments on "Vidunder", with the remaining five tracks readily classifiable as mediocre. The way in which Prim stretches and strains his voice in "Into Her Grave", and the muffled interlude, which allows Linus Larsson to lay down some muted, yet intricate bass musicianship ahead of the guitar solo, both strike a familiar chord with me; whilst the rollicking lead riff, constantly shooting off into tiny solo bits for added texture; and quirky cowbells of the Swedish-sung "Asmodeus" give it a wonderfully light-hearted feel amidst the melancholy that otherwise reigns over the album.

Mind you, that melancholy is harnessed to mesmerising effect on the two ballads in question, and it is in the subtlety of these songs that Vidunder stage their strongest resistance against their inevitable likening to Graveyard. Where the latter's balladry is characterised by grandeur, Joakim Nilsson's voice and the instruments often soaring into a scintillating crescendo; Vidunder prefer a subdued approach in which the guitar, bass, drums and singing are each allowed their own breathing space. There's a delicate touch of piano and organ beneath the instruments in "Beware the Moon" that affords it a level of detail resembling that of Graveyard's ballads; however, without the pomposity and otherworldly beauty that make those such a pleasure on the ears.

The main thing to conclude, then, is that while Vidunder certainly have the capability of writing good vintage rock, they're still missing the notorious it necessary to lift them to the next level. "Vidunder" simply isn't inventive enough, and if you prefer not to take my words for granted, listen to the pressing lack of variety in the band's guitar and drum work in particular ("Summoning the Not Living", "Asmodeus" and "Threat from the Underground" are, at times, virtually indistinguishable from one another). This is a debut album, however, so there's no reason to doubt Vidunder's abilities at this point, as there's more than enough promise here to render this band one-to-watch, and to witness the direction in which they begin to push their sound on future efforts.

Download: Into Her Grave, Threefold, Asmodeus, Beware the Moon
For the fans of: Dead Man, Graveyard, Nocturnal, Witchcraft
Listen: Facebook

Release date 24.05.2013
Crusher Records

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