Vardøger – “Ghost Notes”


Ghost Notes (2015)Vardøger return after a long hiatus with a different but no less brutal sound, this time opting for melodic death metal that has a distinct technical and progressive flair.

When metal bands hail from Norway or other Scandinavian countries, metal fans tend to sit up and take notice. Vardøger, being from Norway, is one of those bands worth checking out.  The name itself even has a wiki page, where the name is said to be a “spirit predecessor in Scandinavian folklore”, almost like the phenomena of déjà vu.  Information I can find has them originating back in 1996 and releasing the Whitefrozen ep in 2003.  Whitefrozen in substance is a somewhat mid-tempo, black  and folk metal album that sounds reminiscent of bands like Antestor on the black metal side and maybe someone like Pospolite Ruszenie on the folk metal side.  What the band has been up to since that time is not very clear but lineup changes appear to one aspect that has happened during that time with some sources indicating the band was going to continue but under a different name as so many members had changed, but obviously that didn’t happen.  After a long time away, the band announced in 2013, they were continuing under the name Vardøger.  For Ghost Notes, band member Robert Bordevik and the band took care of production while Jon Anders Narum at East Lake Studio mixed the album, which was recorded at Studio 19 and Space Valley Studio.

Ghost Notes wastes no time in letting the listener know what they are in for.  An angry driving jackhammer riff from one guitar opens up “Amongst the Damned” punctuated by a solid rhythm section that is soon joined by a second guitar laying down a melodic line over the top.  From the very opening, this is a very different and certainly more complex arrangement than any of those on Whitefrozen and even features some classical piano and clean female vocals in parts.  The overall sound is very full and rich, just like one would want for this style.  This will still appeal to earlier fans but shows how the band has taken their previous work and expanded on it considerably.

“Shine” shows the band maintaining the heavy riffs of “Amongst the Damned” and things go a bit darker and heavier still with “Call Your Name”.  Throughout, the mix of the deep, growled death metal vocals, pounding riffs and drums, really work well together.  “Call Your Name” does shift things a bit lighter with its epic, clean chorus and the next two songs follow a similar formula but make no mistake, “Crystal Sky” and “My Demon” do not let up in intensity.

From this point on, with “Ctf”, “Revived”, and “Greatful” the arrangements become a bit more simplified compared to the earlier songs on the album as the band opts for a more straight ahead approach.  Despite that change, the riffs and rhythms do not become any less complex or powerful, there are just fewer layers of complexity.  One aspect of the album I am not entirely sold on are the clean choruses within the songs as they seem to be a bit of a distraction, but then again, I usually abhor clean vocals in combination with growled death vocals.  Throughout the album, I was very happy to hear some incredible guitar leads though and that was completely unexpected but very welcome and while they also can often feel forced when included in this style like clean vocals, they are incorporated seamlessly in the songs here.  The album closes with “Ghost Notes” and “Starbreather” both of which show the band once again pulling out all the stops in the arrangements.  “Ghost Notes” especially brings back some insane guitar leads, heavy riffs, and an sense of melody, especially in the clean female vocals.

Based on my listen of Winterfrozen, Vardøger have reinvented themselves in some ways but in the bigger picture may have just matured their overall sound, perhaps completing their original vision. In the end Vardøger have created with Ghost Notes one of the more inventive and powerful metal sounds I have heard in a long time.  Being from Norway, there is a certain level of expectation placed on metal bands from the snowy, cold regions of Europe and Vardøger do not disappoint.

Rating: 9/10

Written by John Jackson

01. Amongst the Damned
02. Shine
03. Call Your Name
04. Crystal Sky
05. My Demon
06. Ctf
07. Revived
08. Greatful
09. Ghost Notes
10. Starbreather

Band Members:
Johanne B. Bordevik: – Vocals
Alexander Dalbakk – Lead guitar
Knut Anders Sørum: – Vocals
Peter Dalbakk: – Screams
Robert Bordevik – Rhythm/lead guitar, all background vocals/voices
Henning Ramseth – Bass, keyboards
Johannes Baumann – Drums

Record label: Starbreather Production, Nov. 2015

Weblinks: Facebook / Website

Buy the album here:
Holland: First Paradox
Norway: Nordic Mission

Video for ‘Crystal Sky’

Video for ‘Ghost Notes’


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