My older sister would listen to The Gathering, read Anne Rice, and watch The Craft repeatedly. This album brought back the feeling of that culmination of fun black magick ritual back in full force. Vetrar Draugurinn is the brainchild of guitarist Eric Hazebroek, formally of Stream of Passion. Singer Marjan Welman of Autumn and Ayreon. Drummer Jim van de Kerkhof of All for Nothing. Eight stringed guitar player Thomas Cochrane of Hollowed Earth and Dystopia. Arjan Heijden rounds out the sound on bass and has been a long-time collaborator with Eric Hazabroek.
Their first recording on their EP I (One), released in 2017, laid the foundation for the debut album Hinterlands in 2019. But it’s here on The Night Sky the band truly comes into their own. Kicking things off opening The Observer moves like a dominant pack animal leader. Guitars that glide against gorgeously delivered vocals that soon slows to a funeral doom pace. Think Skepticism but even prettier and fewer tuxedos. Beginning with a guitar structure that wouldn’t feel out of place on Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, The Night Sky drips with honey slow doomy lushness. Guitars shift to become more angular. Drums that seem so distant at first, quietly move closer to the front and become the driving force that move the soundscape textures on and on.
Cavernous Lansdown Hill echoes with a peacefulness until the added vocals of The Eternal’s Mark Kelson blend and swirl with Marjan’s so well they fit like puzzle pieces. Instrumental with abstract vocalizations, The Fear Of Letting Go feels like a religious chanting session used to coo a sacrifice into a false sense of security, before the ancient runic blade drains all the blood out. The Lonely nears anger but never fully embraces it preferring instead to walk a balance that where both anger and calm ration exist. Like a yin and yang that float and respect each other’s existence. An echo effect permeates the track giving an ethereal tone, because if there’s one thing this band was lacking was an otherworldly nature.
The whole album is an experience of sound and emotion…
Our Lady Of Perpetual Emptiness feels fragile and almost tinny at the beginning, until a heart wrenching story about a love lost just makes me want to burn so much sage to cleanse the air while looking through high school yearbooks and reread my old poetry. The fadeout of this song is powerful and kept my attention high, even after five listens of the album in its entirety. Personal favorite As I Drift On An Ocean Towards A Distant Shore has a stoic reflective power woven throughout. Drums are hit more forcefully. Guitars handled with the skill of a surgeon. Marjan shines as always. But this song just hit right when I heard it. I cried. Okay, I cried and called my mom. Lyrics about embracing death and knowing it will happen with fearlessness are a bit of a theme in the record. But here that’s really a focal point. Ambient Reynisfjara builds and explodes into lush heavy wrapping around your soul and filling in the cracks with beautiful harmony.
This release, in my opinion, eclipses previous recordings of the band by achieving something so grand and massive it demands your full attention. It beats with something that feels strangely familiar even upon first listen. The whole album is an experience of sound and emotion. Not to sound too philosophical, it’s like someone fully embracing their shadow self and being proud of the darkness that’s inside. Not afraid of seeming overly strong, or fragile, but knowing both can make art truly complete. A perfect album to kick off the cold of fall.
Scribed by: Richard Murray