Holter - Vlad the Impaler

Holter Vlad the Impaler cover
Vlad the Impaler
Frontiers Music Srl
Holter is the project that initially was known as “Dracula: Swing of Death” an album that saw a collaboration between a couple of ex-members of Norwegian glam merchants Wig Wam (whose bassist however has always also held membership in Artch – so they’re also versed in pure heavy metal as well) with the celebrated Jorn Lande. It would seem from the name that this was probably envisioned as a one off, because we see pretty much the said project, minus Jorn in whose place former Eidolon and Pagan’s Mind Nils K.Rue has stepped in, plus some other Norwegian female vocalist by the name of Eva Iselin Erichsen that seems to be a newcomer (at least I could not find some previous association after a quick search) changing the name and going by the guitarists surname, which given the fact that he’s not some household name – quite surely outside of Norway seems a little vain or at least unimaginative.
Now, for some reason and despite NKR being a very capable vocalist, he was amongst a handful of people I never “got”. Maybe it has to do with their original repertoire or the timbre not being absolutely to my liking, cause technically he ticks all the right boxes, it’s something I can’t quite explain, but neither can I deny. Here he delivers a strong and varied performance, but somehow at best he sounds like a fair facsimile of Readman or Jorn, probably because his vocal lines are not always the most imaginative and there’s not enough personality in the timbre to really be instantly recognizable. I mean I somehow ended up liking EIE’s performances more, due to the more passionate display in her performance, but that might just have to do with the sort of the songs she’s handles in this project.
“World’s on Fire” has some relatively interesting melodies, but somehow you feel like you’ve heard them before, by other Scandinavian bands, probably done better a capable enough solo and a decent chorus.
“Awakened” doubles down on heaviness, but somehow reinforces the “is this a PC69” unreleased tuned from back when the band was shit hot. The hook, for me, is a neat keyboard melody prior to the OK chorus that’s quite gleeful and playful and some guitar variations of the main melody that lead to a series of lead eruptions.
“Drums of Doom” sounds almost like a title that’s befit a Manowar song. It’s very reminiscent of how Jorn sounds when he’s going very “epic”. Think Rainbow around “Stranger in Us All”, but mind you there’s also a melodic line in there, that is almost identical with Therion’s “Blood of Kingu”, so that leaves a sour taste in terms of originality. Holter again delivers a great solo as expected.
“The Last Generation” is the first song in which EIE is given lead with Rue seemingly offering only backing vocals. It’s got a very catchy refrain, but feels somehow very plain. It’s not bad, just a little too predictable and repetitive and thus the solo and a break arrive almost like manna from the heavens to replenish this songs inspirational gauge.
“I’ll Die for You” also sounds very “Jorn”-like in its mannerisms, with a chorus that seems to borrow a bit melodically from Wig Wam, while keeping its flair for drama. Accessible, repetitive, but I guess that’s not much to complain.
“Shadows of Love” is a ballad that EIE handles and initially, made me thought, “hmm this sounds like something Kamelot might have done”. She manages to carry the song pretty much herself, with the orchestration remaining quite discreet for most of the duration of the song. It’s OK, but it’s also reprised in the Japanese edition as an acoustic stripped of the orchestration in a naked version that might not have the same impact, but sounds a whole lot more sincere. Maybe the best song on offer.
“Without You” despite its short duration has quite a bit going on, as it tries to dramatically reach a crescendo through nice melodies. Think Jorn again, but with a more progressive flair. In fact, because of certain melodies, I’m curious whether Jorn was at all involved in this and left at a certain point, or if some songs were leftovers, because some of the melodies are uncunningly close to how he’d formulate some.
“Under My Skin” is suitable to the rest of the album but just about, it’s the most modern moment of the album with a strong – later day Within Temptation – aura about it. It’s quite good and actually its different tone helps the album from not becoming too boring in terms of pace, because right on its heels comes the title track.
“Vlad the Impaler” a four and a half minute instrumental extravaganza that sounds pretty much like a song, structure wise, but obviously has no lyrics. Did they try to write some, but they didn’t fit all that well, was there no time, who knows. It’s fairly enjoyable, but somewhat disruptive to the flow of the album.
Lastly, “Save Me Part Two” tries and somehow manages to be a fitting sequel to the centerpiece of the first album, without managing to best it, but at least, managing to save grace and face, by not trailing behind it, significantly.
I think somehow the whole “Dracula” theme might have somewhat “exhausted” its appeal after two albums and this project should it decide to continue, might want to seek some different literature to draw inspiration from, before it turns into Dracula : Dead and Loving it – the musical. It’s a pity that the original cast has not returned for the sequel, but at least the result is not monstrous, quite the opposite, in fact.