NAPALM RECORDS, 20.11.15
Swedish Månegarm is a band that is able to unite both forest folks and sailors alike. Their folk/viking
metal smells of both pine, fir and spruce on one hand, and foaming salt seas on the other.
I must confess to having a rather slackly relation to the band's discography. The delightful Vredens Tid
(or “Time of Wrath” - 2005) is the only album that's been played a multiple tenfold of times.
Now I can practically say the same about their eighth and self titled album.
When I have promos ahead of the release date, I try to present them within reasonable time. If I'm already a
few weeks late, it somehow no longer feels like any haste, and it might actually end up going another couple of weeks
before I finally finish my write-up. Kind of “if you're late, then you're late no matter what”. The advantage is that
I can take my time to let the content sink in without the deadline-ghost resting on my shoulders as an extra stress factor.
I don't know what happened in this case, but from what I can see I never received any formal promo invitation. (Even
if Napalm's normally very thorough regarding such). I discovered this by chance a few weeks ago. Let's blame
the system. We metalheads have a good tradition for doing that anyway.
This has been played a lot, and I've just been waiting for a gap between promos with release date “today”. This week
looked promising, but suddenly a handful of paperwork due “on my desk yesterday” was crammed into my mail box. To hell
with it, right now I'll take the time needed to complete this review.
One of the reasons why Månegarm has been played tremendously is that the album is so “car-friendly”.
The album's strong melodic touch makes it enjoyable even at moderate volume where annoying background noise would have
completely ruined more intense releases. Another reason is of course the music's sweepingly gorgeous nature.
Even when drums gallop, two guitars participate in the Valkyrie's rides, the vocal rasps and fiddle takes its share of
the sound, the music remain dynamic enough in structure to give room for them all to work together in harmony. As Vikings
rowing a longboat, all instruments involved work together in the same direction for the benefit of their kinship community.
This is reflected in the dynamic range rating. The six songs dominated by metal elements roll in at DR8, whilst the
four unplugged hymns reaches from DR11 to DR13. The band has yet again worked with Pelle Saether, most likely
in Studio Underground, for the recording, whilst Daniel Beckman for the second time around has taken
on the task of mastering an album for the band.
Månegarm have strong and good melodies that gradually attach themselves to the mind, and remain there
until you whistles, hum or sing along, while drumming on the steering wheel, your thighs or the table. It offers
everything from elvish moods in a forest of trolls, to tankard swinging hymns to almighty faðir Odin.
20 years after its inception our Swedish Víking bróðir dish up of ten songs. Mighty Blodörn opens with
tenacious anger, melancholic moods and lovely acoustic ingredients, as bagpipes and kokle (a Latvian
Folk metallic Tagen av daga follows, before mead-thirsty and singalong-friendly Odin Owns Ye
All storms in with swords raised to slay. This is a hefty, trotting ode in Odin's honour. Blot is a beautiful Nordic acoustic ballad in the style of Falkenbach's
This is followed by fairies, elves and nymphs dancing in the edge of the Swedish woods. The instrumental interlude
Vigverk from Legions of the North (2013) has grown into a full-fledged song in the
form of Vigverk - Part II. If, like me, you're waiting impatiently for the comeback of Otyg,
this should definitely appeal to you.
The album's second half blends ingredients like grand, powerful and catchy metal, violin, acoustic guitars, yaw harp,
timeless Swedish folk music, and strong Viking associations in a sovereign demeanour. Just like the first half, in other
words. When Månegarm sets sail and takes us on a versatile journey through Odin's kingdom on earth,
it's not hard to get carried away.
Many can play frenetic and vile extreme metal, but how many bands are able to compose such insanely good songs, with
forthright marvellous melodies as Månegarm? In addition these hymns are of course performed excellently.
A granite strong five points on the dice to an album that only is a short step behind the oldest and wisest of the genre.
See the lyric video for Blodörn, the music video for Odin Owns Ye All, and even you should be able to sing along to the lyric video for
Blot. Odin Owns Ye All and the bonus track Mother Earth Father Thunder, a cover of Bathory's
song from Nordland I, can be streamed right here.
DARK ESSENCE RECORDS, 04.12.15 Helheim began their journey across the open sea in 1992. Now, 20 years after their début, the band's
eighth raid is ready for launch. An album that's hard to grasp.
I discovered the crew form Bergen with Blod og Ild (Blood and Fire - 2000). Before that time
the band was blacker in their expression, but there their distinctive Viking expression were distilled, albeit with a
charming, scruffy touch.
Here, however, the Viking veterans has seemingly moored the Viking ship and put down chainmail and sword and embarked
on a shore leave in the kaupang (market-place) of Bjørgvin.
The following Yersinia Pestis (2003) was so far from what I had expected that I almost instinctively
rejected it. The Journeys and Experiences of Death (2006) had an alluring cover art, but the music was
a bit disappointing. Compared to Blod og Ild's highly dynamic touch, Journeys... felt
quite monotonous in long section, although variation was present overall. The two subsequent discs I've had plans to check out
for a long time, for that which I've heard seems exciting, but fate is a capricious, grumpy and hostile son of a bitch.
raunijaR has reclaimed the dynamic condition of the song material, but also appears to be very experimental
and quite a bit eclectic. This is partly caused by the songs having different sources of origin, which leads to slightly
splayed mood and expression.
Helheim 9 has a lot of folk music to it, but the viking expression is shrouded. It constitutes the final
part of a series of eponymous tracks where drummer Hrymr have mainly been the creative force. The ones
I've heard has served as quite ambient interludes. Here it has developed into a song with violin and vocals, as well as
moods that conjures up images of the Hanseatic League on a busy harbour wharf trade centre,
Bryggen, several hundred years back in time.
Not until the title track raunijaR start, hard metal is dispersed. This acts as a continuation of
Heiðindómr ok motgang. With black elements, yet not your typical black metal, as well as a slightly
melodic, but still a bit monotonous character, this distinguish itself from the rest of the album. In fact, more so
than the previous track.
Five years ago, the band released the EP Åsgårds fall with Part I and II.
Here we find part III and IV, which finalizes this concept. Without familiarity of the
EP or the lyrics of the two new songs I feel that I miss out on something. Even without knowledge of this theme one can
easily hear that there is a story told. Especially the narrative vocals suggests so. I feel like clutching futile at
straws. Those with a knowledge of said EP and the will to soak up the concept, would likely get more out of the album
than what I've been able to. Odr concludes on an introspective path indicating that even this have something deeper hidden in the lyrics.
I've always been weak for pitch black rasping Bergens-vocal with guttural (aka French) R. In very clean and mild form,
the Bergen vocals becomes a clue poppy and the narrative vocals found in Helheim 9, the Åsgårds
fall songs and Odr can be in excess arch-Bergen'ish. When I after many rounds starts to become
a bit immune, it nevertheless offers a distinctive mood that you definitely won't find anywhere else.
Helheim offers slightly splayed music in 2015, where they gather conceptual threads from the past. The
four songs mentioned just above has however some common elements that acts as an intermediary, and the song that stands
as least representative, and that in a sense doesn't quite fit in, is thus ironically the title track.
The album immediately appear as rather peculiar. For yours truly it's been an advantage that the album doesn't last
much longer than 40 minutes, for this has taken some extra time to digest, and an Impression eventually
turned into a Review.
The atmosphere in much of the music feels, like Svartediket, more like a local Bergen's concept about rascals
from the alleys at Nordnes, fishmongers at the pier, as well as dockers and maids with various errands in narrow alleyway
of Sandviken, than something that should have been based on Edda.
Rather than presenting the individual members, information you can find yourself if needed, I'll mention guest vocalists,
Pehr Skjoldhammer of Swedish Alfahanne, and solo artist William Hut, (ex-Poor Rich Ones).
In addition, guests chamber musicians has spiced the music with scattered violin, piano and horn. The violin drags the
mind back to a distant bygone time and horn brings the mighty trombones of Sear Bliss back to memory. The piano
evokes a saloon feel toward the end of the album, but doesn't draw any attention otherwise.
That the band members showcase a supreme effort in their respective field of responsibility, should go without saying.
Herbrand Larsen (Enslaved) has taken care of the mastering whence recording of raunijaR,
at Conclave & Earshot Studio with Bjørnar Nilsen at the controls, was completed.
In addition to the clear sound and approved sonic dynamics, instrumentation and stereo often create hypnotic effects
that are difficult to describe with words. The music is certainly extremely dynamic and varied landscaped.
It took at least six spins to go from a strict belief that raunijaR must be among Helheim's
weakest offerings, to just regarding it as the band's most eccentric album. Whether Helheim is about
to go in an experimental, odd and idiosyncratic direction, or whether they just had something they needed to get out
of the system, remains to be seen.
I've grown fond of raunijaR, but the overall feeling is broken up a bit too much for me to rate it
higher. It's also not impossible that this may be a little bit too unconventional for some potential listeners. I look
forward to reading the lyrics, and eagerly await finding out where the journey goes from here. Will a new voyage over
foaming waves through the fog with axe in hand and mead in the keg ever take place?
PS: Rumours has it this recording was initially intended as an EP, something that could explain (and justify) a fairly
INDIE RECORDINGS, 27.11.15
At some point between the dinosaurs aimless roaming, and man's first resolute step, there was a civilization that
vanished almost without a trace. The few remedies they left has been interpreted in religious and semi-scientific ways
by everything from Mesopotamians and Aztecs to Erich von Däniken.
Yet, none of them would ever have guessed that the human race was created by the creature Kaizanbar.
And he saw that it was good... enough.
When one of my favourite writers first were to put his pencil and computer keyboard on the shelf it's a good thing that
this was in favour of musical creativity, and an ebony and ivory coloured keyboard. André Aaslie, former
writer for Norway's oldest metal-zine Scream Magazine, is the man with the vision behind the intellectual property
Images At Twilight.
My very first reviews were inspired by precisely that magazine; Capture the essence and describe it as succinctly as
possible. This has sort of gone completely to the dogs. I can only apologize for the excessive length of this review!
It just became this vast, in keeping with the music.
Those who think a thesis seems in excess insurmountable will thus be allowed to jump to the conclusion.
• First a “little” info.
I waited in suspense for a long time to see which company the band chose to work with, but the website just continued
to promise big news just around the corner, until I stopped checking. Than suddenly, Kings landed in
the in-box. Fortunately with Indie Recordings, one of the company I have manipulated to believe that I actually
listen to the music before I write about it, as the sender.
As expected when the keyboardist behind Gromth blows imaginary dust of synthesizer and (computer)
keyboard, orchestral extreme metal is on the agenda. Kings is a mighty work in more than one way. The music is magnificent and epic, but also very intense.
As much as 68 minutes of intricate symphonic antics in spades, layered with fierce offensive patrons of metallic character
is served. What constitutes the front or rear wall in this massive piece is not good to say. This bunker is like getting
a 16‑ton weight dropped over your head in classic Monty Python and cartoon style.
It takes time to process this lavish work. Lots of time. I don't know if I'm there yet, but after more than 15 spins,
I consider the time ripe. (actually, I lost count long ago, I must have spent closer to 20 hours with Kings
by the time both Norwegian review and English translation is completed). In fact I can't even understand that
the creators can be able to have a full overview of all the details. The programmed symphony orchestra and the piano,
must deal with an incredible amount of small musical details, twisting as the most intricate ornament-like calligraphic
details of the most elaborate Gothic-fracture font style. The legacy of Limbonic Art lives and thrives in the
king's veins. All these seemingly random tone row detours can then be multiplied with the various synthetic instruments.
There can be no doubt that it has been much to keep track of, and a lot of work behind gathering all loose ends.
Access to adequate, credible sound within this aspect has for André been an absolute condition. This
is in fact the very reason why the project, which has existed for long on a mental level, have not seen the light of
day until now. Modern software can finally simulate symphonic elements well enough for a demanding perfectionist with
an ear for details and quality.
The rest of the band Images At Twilight shall of course not be forgotten. After some back and forth
through the creation process, the crew now consist of five additional man. Narrenschiff (eks-
Ásmegin etc.) share vocals with André and Viti. I can't say nothing about the
distribution amongst them, though. The vocals are very varied and often layered, from deep grunting growl to sharp high
pitched black vocals reminiscent of Dani Filth, fortunately without bordering on his exaggerated pig squealing.
Coarse narrated vocals and background choir can also be traced. Viti also handles bass, while Bolverk (Ragnarok) takes care of the guitar.
Some extra guitars are contributed by Ihizahg (Bloodthorn et.al.). An additional guitar might
be useful when the instrumentalists try to penetrate the wall of orchestral elements. The man behind the drums
is Anders Haave (eks-Blood Red Throne etc.), working his way through the material with
The concept hinted at in the introduction was created by André's former colleague, Scream
veteran Bjørn Nørsterud, a man with certain fascinations toward the mystic and unknown. When the music assumed
epic cinematic proportions, and the need for an equally ambitious concept arose, he step forth and contributed with an
intricate concept of interplanetary races with terrestrial interests. The theme seems to be about as difficult to grasp
as the music. After two attempts, I am left with a vague feeling of glimpsing the nuances of the story. Currently, the
story feel a little disjointed, but than again, I have troubles remembering names. Especially extraterrestrial names
such as Ninhagaz, Awazor and Zatholach.
• Images At Twilight - Kings:
After just over 40 seconds in the safe waters of baroque, dramatical extremity detonate. The symphonic part has a dark,
gloomy and ominous feel, while also with something majestic and fairytale'ish throughout. When than the symphonic is
characterized by curly flourishes, it is perhaps not surprising that thoughts wanders towards our Dutch friends in
Angren. Especially just ahead of - and up to - the 3-minute mark of the opening track Lograttin
Part I (The Saga of the Ancient Warlords Chapter III), where even the sleazy vocals drag the mind in those
direction with its theatrical phrases.
The music moves tirelessly through various phases and passages. Overwhelming bombastic and rapid sections takes art
breaks where piano, horn and violin strings reigns. It all sounds completely majestic, albeit sometimes very intense.
dynamic range ain't quite as fantabulous as the musical aspect. On average, ticking in at DR6, but overall
it varies from DR4 to DR9. The result is unwanted clipping of peaks in large parts of the song material. As such, their
epic expression could have been better communicated. Still, the production is formidable, and it doesn't sound too
compact. Thus, I forgive that fact that there is not enough headroom left to stretch my back. I don't know where the recording
took place, but Devo of Marduk has been responsible for mixing and mastering in Endarker Studio.
The material sure takes its time to reveal all the secrets, which bodes well for durability. That an album is difficult
to get into can hardly be used as a negative argument.
My main objection is rather that the music's intensity may come at the expense of other qualities. Where Septicflesh
clearly brings forth every detail with an airier, more progressive approach, Images At Twilight
offers such a flood that one can easily lose sight of other elements. The guitars for example, risk being left behind
beneath a thick layer of piano, vehement drums and more. When giving an orchestral berserker as André
free rein, you risk a philharmonic caco(sym)phonic bonanza. Even his first band Gromt had an airier approach, with more
classical symphonic structuring where potency and volume can vary from pianississimo to fortisissimo, and where the
various components is made clearer with more concrete and tangible melody lines.
The greatest danger, however, is that potential listeners will be deterred from diving deeper due to the seemingly
insurmountable wall of music. Black Metal mongers hate every bordering style, watering down or undermining true
grimness, and soft-metal devotees pee in their pants when facing the Kings.
Thus Kings remains a platter for a specific audience; those who like ambitious and complex symphonic
extreme metal with a pompous touch that offers a challenge. If you're the right person to take the challenge, the
reward will be waiting for you. Images At Twilight has delivered a long duration, long-lasting album
with a double sense of long, without feeling lengthy.
To describe this behemoth with words is almost futile. There's a huge amount of great instrumentation, transitions en
masse, and just a massive expression where lots of things are going on continuously for over an hour. The eight songs
are very well-composed, but its violently stifling intensity could have been toned down a bit in favour of musical
dynamics. Finally it should be noted that Images At Twilight with this expression differs slightly
from related species. Lots of the music impresses considerably, but due to some debris, Kings end up
in the lower realm of the five point territory.
André Aaslie has created a mighty, magnificent and epic, but also very intense symphonic work.
The music is dominated by intricate, labyrinthine and tortuous piano-processions, alongside powerful violin and brass
section and metallic instrumentation. Occasionally in fierce pace, and at times more soaring.
The music is not very airy in expression and the dynamics in the sound could have been more spacious, but the
whole thing is both detailed and elaborate. Scream Magazine's eminent progressive rock and death metal enthusiast Bjørn Nørsterud has come up
with a comprehensive concept of extraterrestrial races that inhabited the planet before our time and created man before
they left planet Tellus, the big blue marble, to this young genetically engineered species.
The opus is not easy to get underneath the skin and wholly 68 minutes don't make it easier either, but fans of bands
like Carach Angren, Limbonic Art, Septicflesh, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Gromth
and early Abigail Williams won't regret making an effort.
You'll have to go all the way to Spain, and
Friedhof Magazine to comprehend what I'm
attempting to convey.
INDIE RECORDINGS, 13.11.15 Kampfar plunges straight into the flames, they're cremated, but survives. Yet, of their own choice,
they're buried alive at 666 feet. Besides hopelessness and contempt, the band is surrounded by lifeless, oxygen-poor,
Chained in the deepest outpost, screaming your suffering and curses falls on deaf ears. Mold, rock, soil and earth again,
has no sympathy. Only indifference. Kampfar digs in their own grave, but to no avail. For every shovel
of dirt they only increases the scope of emptiness.
Such is the thematic world of Profan depicted. Dolk with companions presents Kampfar's seventh full-length album. The press release
portray this as “the third chapter of the third wave.” In fact, that corresponded with my feelings toward the issue
before I read this. Along with the two previous albums, Mare and Djevelmakt, these
three kind of form a trilogy, where the band on these discs have seemed more infernal and hungry than ever.
I shall not use this space to excuse low activity under the tab Reviews recently. Let me just quickly mention
that I've had my hands full with Impressions, which in turn have become more elaborating and have adopted much
of the initial purpose of Reviews anyway.
After devilish laughter, all Hell break loose. The flames lick the walls, conjured up by rasping screams. Frenetic black
metal rages like a bullet train without brakes. Thunderous crackling sounds from the tracks and an overheated hydraulic
system in high gear trying to compensate for a defective brake system while doing 210 (km/t) toward a sonic wall of harsh
tremolo and thunderous four strings. Gloria Ablaze opens Profan in a delightful intense and infernal flaming way.
Profanum continues at full blaze and frantic drift. However, it's the middle section that sends chills
down the spine and give delightful goosebumps. The melody lines creates gloomy and disturbing, almost nail-bitingly
nervous moods, extending nearly to the end of the track before gradual changes again ends the song on frenzied and
seething dominant fire.
Surprisingly symphonic, chirping flute trills opens before black metal again explodes in your face. Dolk
emerges as mighty and proud but ragingly furious while dark and dreary background choiring gives an ominous feel. The
music doesn't lag behind the vocals, but shows a dangerous wolf pack with the taste for blood.
Hell knows what bloodthirsty entity lies lurking in the unknown depths of the forest, but the outright terrifying moods
just won't stop. With ominous mid tempo, fierce and authoritative attitude, the band more than suggests that they
are the fearsome creature of the forest. Just over halfway even hints of former glory shines through, something we'll also
receive a taste of in...
The opening, as during Skavank, offers a trace of Fra Underverdenen (1999). Didgeridoo,
serenely chanting vocals and modest use of the pianos tangents leads on to the album's most calm song, where the melody
lines in the chorus has a melodic touch of folk. The song winds in something reminiscent of a Seigmen terrain.
This is the first song that was presented to the public, but it's not the most representative song for Profan.
Pole In The Ground
After over three minutes with malicious blasts, the tempo gradually lowers until long soaring guitar works creates
enchanting moods from about 4:20. The guitar fades out after a much too short run, leaving the stage to the low-key
and subtle brass laying latent in the depths, before some guitar distortion close out the song at the very end. Pole In The Ground was my first favourite from Profan. As with Profanum,
it's the midsection that creates magical hair-raising moods.
Tornekratt opens up titanic and majestic, but mighty expressions yields and gives way for breaking waves
of a variety of different moods. The hymns performed in this final song has a small whiff of mead thirsty savages, glimpsed
in the distance.
Music and its force benefit of a very potent production. The dynamics are quite middling, but there is, however, so much
thrust in this music that I don't really miss that extra pep in the most energetic sequences that much. Besides, the music
is quite dynamic on its own, lowering the need for extra room.
Besides from vocals and drums, everything is recorded with the band's latest addition Ole Hartvigsen
(Emancer, Mistur), who also played guitar on Djevelmakt, as producer.
The vocals are recorded in Waterfall studio in Oslo with help from Stamos Koliousis (Mencea
& Satan's Wrath), while the drums have been given the honour to represent the very latest recordings through
Abyss Studios (if I understand it correctly) old, faithful mixing desk, where a large amount of classics have
been produced. Jonas Kjellgren from Black Lounge Studios, hardly Blacklodge Studios as some
claim, has taken care of those recordings and the mixing of the album.
Tempting as it is to be a grumbler, “they've recorded the drums on outdated equipment, ripe for replacement”, the drums
naturally sound superb.
Band founder Dolk screaming himself hoarse with wonderful arrogant satanic passion, and he sings his
pure and plaintive tones into the void, while Ask (Hades Almighty, Kraków) contributes
manly background vocals and some extreme vocals. The black vocals are delightfully sharp, yet with just as clear diction
that the words are bordering on clarity even without lyrics available. Ole Hartvigsen must have filleted away some parts of his fingers during frenzied riffing on sharp metal
strings, and Jon Bakker (Fester) may be in danger of losing his kidneys after enduring the
vibrations from the bass.
Behind the battery we find Ask, who virtuously performs long distance sprints on the pedals, while the
drumsticks frantically follows. With this kind of formidable elbow grease, who the hell would need a treadmill?
Kampfar, in terms of both the effort of the members and the music as a whole, appear as robust, hardy
and seasoned, with moods and punch that in the true black spirit has a proud and tall, diabolical and arrogant character.
The seven songs hang together like flies in a spiders web, but they also have very distinct characteristics. It's not
often that I remember how each song appear just based on song titles any more, but in the case of Profan
it is actually not that hard.
Thomas Andreassen, who was a part of the band from the very beginning and until 2010, was allegedly the one
who dragged symphonic and folk-sounding elements into Kampfar, while Dolk accounted
for the pitch black contributions.
Fortunately, in this respect Dolk has obviously been influenced to continue with inspirations from
mountains, woodlands, forces of nature and yesteryears. Both Mare (2011) and Djevelmakt
(2014) had its share, and as we can see, nature and tradition has also gained its place on Profan.
Another masterful, elitist and sovereign album from Kampfar.
and see it visualizes in Kampfar's very first official video.