Elderhead is the black metal solo project of one Fars Morder, hailing from the USA. Hilsen Fra Vinland is the first release and is a short statement of intent consisting of four tracks, including a cover of Masters Of The Universe, one of my favorite songs by the great British Stoner Rock band Hawkwind.
The artwork for the demo is a German tank from World War 2 in black and white. Instantly I was expecting some kind of Marduk-inspired blastbeat battering! Then I noticed the corpsepainted figure sticking his head out of the tank's turret and though "ok, is this a joke band". Neither was, in fact, the case.
The song starts with Operation Totenvater. Probably the strongest track on the demo to be honest. It starts with a slow to mid-paced intro, almost pulsating in fact, before Morder shows us what his voice is capable of. Now this was a rather nice surprise for me. Most black metal demos I've heard tend to suffer from appalling vocals but Morder has a really great black metal shriek. His voice doesn't break, the rasps and screams are horrifying instead of horrible and at times you can (gasp!) decipher what he's saying!
Operation Totenvater is also the longest song on the album at almost five minutes in length. Had it only been four minutes it would have been a nice slice of black metal but the last minute of the song loses it somewhat. It begins when a female voice over starts. The music stops, the woman mutters some inane babble and then the music starts again, only it doesn't even sound like the same song! This isn't an inspired time change or anything, its just odd. Unfortunately you see this sort of thing a lot through this demo and it does detract from the overall experience.
Hevn Av Presten Impaler, the second track, has a great intro. Nice and fast and it draws you in. Then the music stops. Its as if Morder had forgotten what comes next, stopped playing and then thought up something new to play. Its not a bad song, its just odd.
The last original track is Den Norske Legion. A fairly mid-paced black metal song that speeds up in some parts. Again there is a voice over, a man this time, but even this is quite annoying. It just doesn't fit with the music in my opinion!
Finally is the Hawkwind cover. In all honesty its almost unrecognizable as the same song. You can hear the lyrics and occasionally there is a glint of the original shining through in the guitar or bass parts but on the whole it may as well be a new song. Not too sure this song works as a black metal track either.
I do think this was a good choice of band for Elderhead to cover though as the guitars on this demo do strike me as similar to the guitars on Hawkwind's early album; quite muted, almost like they have been wrapped in sponge and recorded under water. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The guitars don't have much bite but they do give Elderhead a fairly unique sound.
You may have noticed I haven't mentioned the drumming yet. There's a reason for that; its not worth mentioning. Its very simple, it does its job but badly.
The only real thing I can rave over about this demo are Fars Morder's vocals, which really are excellent. My advice would be to find some decent musicians and just concentrate on being a vocalist in a real band. The heart is in the right place, but Quorthon he is not.
The demo as a whole is about average. For its length its not boring, I didn't want to skip any tracks, I just felt that there were too many odd moments in it and the musicianship isn't of the highest caliber.