Blast From the Past – Episode 1: Mork Gryning and Vinterland

Over the years, many good bands have released fantastic albums everybody appreciated and many good bands have released albums that, even though were very good, became underrated and succumbed into oblivion.
Everybody knows that in the middle of the 90’s, black metal was sweeping across Scandinavia in particular and Europe in general like a black plague, hundreds and hundreds of bands coming out of nowhere and jumping into this extreme metal bandwagon, just because it was very, very popular. Because of these bands, other really good ones, formed by talented musicians who identified themselves with this music and ideology released some memorable albums which unfortunately were left on history’s shelf and the world forgot about them. I’m talking about Mörk Gryning, a two man band hailing from…Sweden, where else from, whose members released their debut album “Tusen år Har Gått” when they were 15 and 18 years old respectively.

Released on the now defunct No Fashion Records in 1995, “Tusen år Har Gått” (Thousand Years Have Passed) is very similar in approach to Dissection, Sacramentum, Dark Funeral, Vinterland, Lord Belial and other Swedish hordes that released their albums around the same period, on the same label and almost in the same style. But, that does not make Mörk Gryning a copy cat, on the contrary.

Mörk Gryning - Tusen år Har Gått
Mörk Gryning – Tusen år Har Gått

Recorded in the famous Unisound Studios (owned by the mighty Dan Swano, who also plays drums on the 1st track, as Day Disaraah), “Tusen år Har Gått” is a milestone in the career of this very young and talented band.

Lasting a bit over half an hour, the album begins with an instrumental track, “Dagon“, followed in full force by “Journey“. From the very first listen I loved the speed and aggression that were combined with a certain melancholic “melody” which made the whole content extremely enjoyable. The 2 young members ( Goth Gorgon – bass, guitars, keyboards and Draakh Kimera – drums, guitars and vocals) are very talented, playing their instruments with an unusual ease, not that characteristic to teenagers.

All through the album the blast beats mix perfectly with the icy, cold riffs and some little acoustic guitar interludes pop-up here and there only to underline the majesty of the songs. Of course the Dissection influence cannot be denied, but what makes this album quite a stand alone one is the perfect mix between the aggressive parts and those haunting keyboards, which are not used just for the sake of it. They have their meaning and they create a creepy, sinister atmosphere that enshrouds the listener start till finish.

Another strong point of this album are the vocals, which are not the usual (for that era) high pitched black metal screams, but instead are raspy, harsh and evil. I don’t know if the 2 musicians have taken musical studies ( and I don’t really care, to be honest), but their prowess is really impressive and maybe the best example is “Unleash the Beast“, one of my favorite tracks from this album. Strong double bass pedals, frantic beats and majestic riffs.

All in all, “Tusen år Har Gått” is, even after 21 years, a classic album in black metal’s history book (what a cliche, yes) and I don’t really understand why it has been so underrated. It has everything: chilling atmosphere, good music, aggression and an evil feeling. If you haven’t listened to this forgotten gem at all, well, maybe now it’s the time. If you have but you have forgot about the CD on your shelf (as I did), then maybe it’s the moment to dust it off and spin it again. It will be a fucking pleasant surprise.

Another band that has released an album many black metallers have forgot about is Vinterland. Having formed in Kvicksund (Sweden) in 1992, the band has released 2 demo tapes in 1994 (A Castle So Crystal Clear and It’s Here I Belong) before recording and releasing the one and only album, the masterpiece that was to be known as “Welcome My Last Chapter“.

Vinterland - Welcome My Last Chapter
Vinterland – Welcome My Last Chapter

As many of you already know, the album’s original title is “Wings of Sorrow“, but since on the cover it was written Welcome My Last Chapter, everybody assumed that was the title, so this how it got to be called. Anyway, that doesn’t matter at all, since the music is much more important than the title.

Speaking of music: like Mörk Gryning and a dozen of other bands at that time, Vinterland recorded the album in Unisound Studios, under the careful watch of Mr Swano himself (who by the way also plays some keyboards on this album) and released it under the No Fashion Records banner in March 1996. When everybody was so excited about this release and expected a follow up, the band decided all of a sudden to call it quits, leaving behind it an all time classic legacy of melodic black metal.

This album is a monument of Scandinavian black metal, as it was done in the mid 90’s. We have all the proper ingredients – blast beats, insane riffs, ice cold atmosphere, majestic keyboards (just listen to the track “So Far Beyond…(The Great Vast forest)”, it’s terrifyingly beautiful) and tortured vocals. Mixed in the witch’s cauldron by Dan Swano, the result is one the best albums ever released in that period when the “scene” was degrading considerably and many useless bands were popping up like stinking mushrooms.

AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!!! This is how “Our Dawn of Glory” opens the album, in a melancholic frenzy of superb riffing and desolating sadness. This is what Welcome… is actually about: a terrifying, penetrating sadness that deepens with each track that’s contained on the album. The agonizing screams of D.F.Bragman are only the nail in the coffin, the evil has been done when the drums have been played and the guitars have mourned their funeral tunes.
Without being romantic (leave that to the gothic bands), Welcome… is a perfect example of how a one shot only has come to be the perfect soundtrack of grief and sorrow. I personally consider this a perfect album, since it has everything I am looking for in a black metal release and, during its 49 minutes, no song, chord, riff, note are fillers. Everything falls perfectly into pieces, creating one of the most haunting extreme metal albums that were ever recorded.

When the tempo calms down, we have songs like “Vinterskogen“, to help us catch our breath before being thrown again in an insane maelstrom of chaotic madness. “Still the Night is Awake” and “A Winter Breeze” take you wandering through the frozen forests of the North while the album ends with “Wings of Sorrow“, an almost 9 minute monster of a song, created to haunt your nights and dreams with its slow pace, acoustic guitars and demonic, sad vocals. Welcome My last Sorrow should have been the album’s name, cause this is the effect it has (on me, at least). Materpiece!!

PS: 8 years ago, two of Vinterland‘s members, D.F.Bragman and Andreas Jonsson have resurfaced after a very long absence and have joined The Black in the Swedish black metal band The Black, with whom they released the album “Alongside Death“. Vinterland has officially reformed in 2011, but they haven’t released anything until now, so I do not know if this reunion is a good thing or bad. Only time will tell, but “Welcome My Last Chapter” is and will be one of my all time favorite black metal albums.

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