Norwegian unit Vreid could be said to stand collectively at a crossroads as they contemplate the release of their latest album, Lifehunger, their eighth full lengther since metamorphosing from the tragically cut short Windir into their modern guise.

Like many before them, the talent fossicked away in the Vreid ranks means that at some point they are going to organically outgrow simple collections of blast beats and tremolo guitar. And if Lifehunger sees the band having passed that point of no return some time ago, it still sees a band largely revered amongst black metal circles; you don’t hear too many grumbles about this band selling out to the mainstream. Lifehunger may test those loyalties to their fullest.

Easily the band’s most accessible release (as if to underline that statement, the album features guest vocals from Sólstafir alumnus Aðalbjörn ‘Addi’ Tryggvason), Lifehunger sees the band injecting swathes of uber-melodic guitar work into tracks like One Hundred Years. The title track, spikier and more angular overall, also features a highly melodic lead midway through.

There’s still an overwheeningly sinister air hanging over a lot of the material, don’t get me wrong. But it seems to be there almost as a sop to those not willing to accompany the band on a soaring, genre-transcending prog metal romp.

Tryggvason’s guest slot on the quirky Hello Darkness is a real highlight, helping the band to really expand their horizons sonically, as the song develops into a dark, post-punky twitchfest of the kind you might have seen Bauhaus performing in the early eighties. Without useless reggae interludes thankfully. Although a cheeky little cowbell does ramp up the retro feel towards the end of the song in frankly worrisome fashion.

All laughter aside, the bottom line is that once again Vreid have come up trumps with a wonderfully varied serving of progressive blackened metal. They don’t care what styles they utilise to get their musical points across, and I’m damned if I can work out why I or you should either. Hands down their most enjoyably listenable album, Lifehunger is however probably going to sort the wheat from the chaff fan-wise. Which side will you be on?

Lifehunger will be released by Season of Mist on September 28th.