Friday, January 4, 2013

... The horn of Heimdallr calls : THE FLIGHT OF SLEIPNIR – ‘Ascension’

Colorado’s folk-influenced, psychedelic metal conjuring duo of Clayton Cushman and David Csicsely—collectivelly known as The Flight of Sleipnir—have, courtesy of Eyes Like Snow Records, reissued their extremely rare, self-released ‘Wisdom Calls for Sacrifice’ demo, the just as scarce ‘Winter Solstice II’ EP, along with the additions of a cover version of Pentagram’s “Be Forewarned” and a live rendition of their epic tune “Algiz” under the banner ‘Ascension’. For the uninitiated, The Flight of Sleipnir plays a unique blend of doomy psychedelia that is heavily accented with ethereal passages of progressive, folk-influenced instrumentation. Vocally, the band utilizes both clean and harsh vocals to superb effect and finds much of their lyrical inspiration from the sagas and eddas of Norse mythology. Despite their influences, it would be lazy to categorize The Flight of Sleipnir as mere “Viking metal” as the band remains unparalleled in their approach and execution.

The first three tracks of ‘Ascension’ are culled from the ‘Wisdom Calls for Sacrifice’ demo with the notable exclusion of a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes”. “The Deceiver, the Blind, and the Beloved”, “At the Roots of the Ash Tree”, and “Thyrm’s Bane” offer a glimpse into the early machinations of the duo. Sound-wise these tracks are above and beyond typical demo quality, though the production is a bit more harsh and “crunchy” compared to what will follow on subsequent releases. Despite what can only be deemed as a more primitive or primordial sound, the signature elements of what makes The Flight of Sleipnir so great are deeply ingrained in these tracks from the use of harsh and clean singing to sweeping steel guitar embellishments and ghostly, forlorn backing vocals.

The seven tracks that make up the ‘Wisdom Calls for Sacrifice’ demo and the ‘Winter Solstice II’ EP are cleft in twain by the official release of the band’s rendition of Pentagram’s classic tune “Be Forewarned”. Of all of the songs in Pentagram’s vast catalogue, “Be Forewarned” is probably the best suited for The Flight of Sleipnir’s modus operandi. The end result is a faithful adaptation of the ‘First Daze Here’ version of the song both musically and vocally. While it would have been interesting to see the band take a more eclectic approach to covering the tune by adding more of their signature elements, the band cannot be faulted for faithfully paying homage to a great band and song.

“Winding Path”, “Among the Slain We are Chosen”, “Within the Fires of Muspell”, and “Let Us Drink Till We Die”, originally collected as the ‘Winter Solstice II’ EP, begin to round out the latter half of ‘Ascension’. Here, the band is beginning to find and ultimately refine their sound. The production is more akin to the releases that will eventually follow, but the band is arguably heavier than anything to be found amongst the tracks of both ‘Lore’ and the ‘Essence of Nine’, save perhaps the initial, traditional sounding composition of “Let Us Drink Till We Die”. The most significant leap the band makes is in regards to their vocals, particularly the harsher vocal delivery of Clayton Cushman and this really comes across on the hypnotic sixth track, “Among the Slain We are Chosen”. While the three tracks of ‘Wisdom Calls for Sacrifice’ are undoubtedly and unmistakably the products of The Flight of Sleipnir, it is the four tracks of the ‘Winter Solstice II’ Ep that truly mark the band’s arrival.

‘Ascension’ closes out with a live arrangement of the band’s epic, “Algiz”. The quality of the track is stellar and the end result is a moving, gloriously executed slab of crushing, yet trippy metal. The inclusion of a live version of “Algiz” is a fine representation of how the band sounds in a live setting where they sacrifice some of the folk-influenced, softer moments in favor of metallic heft.

With each release The Flight of Sleipnir continues to solidify and refine their sound into a wholly unique vision. Due to the band’s influences and their consequent arrangements The Flight of Sleipnir are essentially in a league of their own. They are able to craft tunes that are heavy, psychedelic, haunting, and at times beautiful. ‘Ascension’ is an interesting trip that will satisfy fans who are eagerly awaiting the release of the band’s fourth full-length, ‘Saga’, or those who simply like music that is both unique and engaging. ‘Ascension’ is not merely an artifact that exists to illustrate how a band has developed over time from its humble beginnings, but instead is a solid collection of tunes from start to finish. ‘Saga” is slated for release in time for purification on February 15th.

Words: Steve Miller

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