Sogndal’s favorite sons, VRIED, return with album number nine, having kept to a reliable schedule of an album every 2-3 years throughout the entity’s nearly two-decade career. While never veering too far from the path originally embarked upon in Kraft, the outfit has managed to remain reliable in quality as well thus far.

To be honest, Wild North West was one of those albums that, even before listening, I entered upon the assumption that it would rise to the same watermark as the formers had. At first look, there was that rare sight of a vibrant cover, bursting with Frank Frazetta-styled oranges, yellows and reds. Not seen since 2015’s Solverv, this sets Wild North West apart from VREID’s usual fare of stark greys, blacks and blues, lets us know we’re in for something uncommon.

A concept story at its heart, the title track kicks off, built around a keyed progression that makes one wonder how the images of those now-classic scenes of the American West must have looked to the Swedes – expansive and barren wastelands of dust instead of snow, cactus and butte rather than crag and fjord, buzzard, not raven. This is about the wild lands of the soul here, buckaroos and ladies, and VREID’s just the band to take us there. ‘The Morning Red’ may seem a bit slow-going at first, but by the halfway through, when you realize it’s never going to “kick in” or “get moving”, you’ve found yourself lost in its immersive soundscape, the quartet able to conjure glimpses of that pioneering spirit, the “Colorado sound” of WAYFARER and early ACROSS TUNDRAS as well as they.

For those devotees of such, ‘Spikes Of God’ is the most overtly black metal, Jarle & co. proving that they have nothing to prove, and managing to stay true to the story they’re telling, admirable in itself. After the almost death-rock influence of ‘Dazed And Reduced’, we receive a special gift in the form of ‘Into The Mountains’, which features a keyboard track recorded by WINDIR founder, friend and guiding dark light of the foursome, Valfar.

Would’ve been a 3.5, but the fact that VREID not only stretches itself into an unexpected realm here and succeeds makes it worth rounding up. In all, VREID fans will find much to explore in the Wild North West. An album not for passive listening, indeed.
Review By: Lord Randall

Wild North West
Season Of Mist
4 / 6