Of warriors and hungry shadows: an interview with Jonas Albrektsson of King of Asgard

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Since its start in 2008, Swedish metal band King of Asgard has grown in presence and ingenuity with an accompanying potency of acclaim brewing alongside their impressive endeavours. Previous albums Fi’mbulvintr of 2010 and …to North two years later, bred an impressed and continually strengthening recognition but new album Karg is where the band’s expressively flavoursome blend of blackened metal with folk instincts looks like drawing the widest canvas of ears and appetites. With a broad invention and sound which at times needs a focused attentiveness to discover all its unique qualities, the album easily pushes the band into a new spotlight. We had the pleasure to explore the roots and depths of King of Asgard, as well as the new proposition from the band with bassist Jonas Albrektsson who kindly spared time for us to talk about….

Hello Jonas and many thanks for taking time out to talk with us.

Hi Pete, and thanks for supporting us. Cheers

Before we delve into new album Karg, can we ask about the beginnings of the band, its foundation and the intent behind its first steps?

King of Asgard was formed by Karl Beckman, joined by Karsten Larsson in short time as a continuation of their predecessor band Mithotyn, a band which both Karl and Karsten were in. The longing of getting back to the roots and close to where it all (Mithotyn) ended got King of Asgard started, preferably in a new shape and with a new approach. As time went and the band evolved, King of Asgard became a sole creation standing proud on its own foundation which probably also became more evident when I joined in on bass and as a creative force. Later on Lars Tängmark came into picture as well to fill in and strengthen the line-up. So King of Asgard has reminiscence of what once was but has taken its own turns and led to something of its own yet with the past still, for obvious reasons, present. That’s in short how it all got started and from there on our three albums guide the way. Also check our biography presented at the Metal Blade web page for further digging.

Norse mythology is an open inspiration to your music and lyrics, was this a determined aspect from day one with the band and what inspired your interest in it personally as well as creatively?

Yes it pretty much was as such. As said above this was at first thought a continuation of Karl and Karsten’s musical past which was derived from Norse mythology concepts, the Viking heritage and the overall ancestral past. So I would say the main concept for inspiration was a determined choice but we’ve loosened up during the years and are not that forced to stay within those frames, though our name suggests that at first glimpse of course. So this was the case, at least that’s how it was in the beginning but times change and so did our music and lyrical approach. Karg for example to some extent deals with what previous albums have done, Norse mythology, the sagas and the age it reflect, but not close to what was on the debut for example. On this one we went much closer to our own immediate historical presence and also totally out of subject and I think this will be more realised in the future to come. The actual interest and inspiration I think we just got natural through our upbringing so it’s there just to grab and pick it up. It’s a great treasure and indeed a great source of inspiration for what we do and create.

Was the emergence of King Of Asgard in 2008 a swift realisation from an idea or was it something which had been brewing in thoughts of Karl for a while even whilst in other projects? king-of-asgard_photo01

King of Asgard has long before realisation been present in Karl’s thoughts and he has always wanted to pick something like this up but for several reasons never been able to do so until 2008. We’re close friends, me and him, so I know before King of Asgard he’s been talking about it several times and I’m glad he finally got his shit together and made reality out of his longing. It wasn’t that serious to begin with but after the demo was recorded I know he really was focused and eager. This was also the period when he first started nagging on me to join which took some time but I’m glad I finally did. So, Karl really ‘brewed’ on this constellation for a long time, probably since the day Mithotyn shut their business down. To sum it up I would say King of Asgard was formed way before in Karl’s mind and is a project stained with devotion and heart.

How do you see the band now against those early days not only in sound and presence but in its direction and intent?

I think we just keep on working from where we left off of our past creations and further on into our own development without really looking back. What happens is probably that it turns more and more into our own style as we write what we personally gets satisfied doing, creating our own sound. This album took quite a while before we felt where to turn from whence things just automatically took shape. The sound and material on Karg is much more stripped down and riff based which makes a somewhat new approach for being King of Asgard but I really feel this is where we feel most safe and personally satisfied. We kind of step back and rely on power combined with epic moments. The development between all three albums and the time duration has been very natural and when thinking of it one can actually hear what’s going on and the direction is somewhat clear. We’ve accomplished much and conquered some and reached our own identity but more needs to be adjusted. What’s important is not to get stagnant and still feel we have a direction and intent for doing King of Asgard and I feel we still do.

We are mentioning your just released third album Karg, how has its realisation differed from its predecessors Fi’mbulvintr of 2010 and …To North two years later?

I guess the thing is we’ve found a good and safe way of working which feels really pleasant. We’re these days very confident on what we do and do our thing from the heart, not trying to please others expectations, though we of course appreciate it if people like what we do ha-ha. Karl and I put the material together of which he writes the most, we structure and record pre-productions and so forth so there’s really a lot of thought behind all our stuff but still there can come spontaneous ideas in the studio for example. So we’re much more focused and structured in the writing process these days than in say pre the debut album but I guess such is also natural and grows within a band as time goes. So speaking of Karg it all went very smooth at least when we got inspired and the creative force got started. We know how to deal with things these days and are fully prepared before entering the studio and such so that the recording also will be as focused and held on maximum grade. We always want to improve and do our very best even if it many times faces hard struggle.

What about its inspirations and its growth in sound compared to the earlier albums for you?

Guess much of this already been discussed more or less but I think what is most evident is that it is more true to ourselves. We obviously never tried to be the most progressive nor innovative act, not at all but rather looked back and paid tribute to our own heroes and influential sources. We create music we ourselves appreciate listening to which I believe has grown more into our sound and at the same time built our foundation. I think on Karg we reached the point where we are most personal in sound and that sound being King of Asgard with full force and with identity. We don’t think that much or plan on the direction we want to turn, we rather follow our own intuitions and the result is what comes out of it but run with a thorough and careful hand.

KingOfAsgard-KargThe album title Karg is the Swedish for barren; did the name come after its making as a reflection of the songs within the release or was it the seed from which ideas and the atmosphere of the album grew?

It started off in all sorts of directions but once the first say two songs were close to finish we knew where we were heading with the material for this album. By this time we also came up with the album title, Karg, which by its mere significance has formed and influenced the atmosphere through the whole process, musically, lyrically as well as when considering art and pictures etc. We wanted it to sound bare, sterile and infertile combined with what one usually associates King of Asgard with…the absence of bliss. So it was probably both ways, we went with the flow as it started in the beginning of the writing process as well as we were determined of a certain goal. It was mostly a seed which grew into Karg, an interesting way to work actually.

It is arguably a more challenging and raw proposition than its predecessors in many ways, is that something you see and deliberately worked for or it arose more organically?

I think it came intentionally with the approach we strived for and the atmospheres we wanted to build. Our previous albums have been much more accessible in terms of melodies and song structure. This time around it’s still there but takes quite a few more spins to get the grip and comprehend the material. It was not a sole purpose to come to but rather just went that way and it’s more a reflection of us as persons. Karg is a more mature and honest album than the other two and a proof we’ve somewhat reached an identity of our own. It’s both ways of what you aim for here, we wanted it to sound a specific way and thus we deliberately worked in such direction as well as having it come our way naturally, allowing it to happen.

Do you see this as a breath to your music which will continue certainly into the next release(s) or are you a band which allows each batch of songs to find their own character within your ideas and musical exploration?

I think it will continue as well as develop. We don’t plan much but rather follow our instincts though within the frames of King of Asgard of course. It’s always hard to predict the future but for how I feel the work for Karg went, we will most likely still follow this newly discovered path. I don’t think we did such a radical change though but as said before, we’re in the phase where we’ve found ourselves musically and conceptually and really enjoy what we do as well as what we achieve and generate.

Lyrically do you go looking for tales and myths to brew your ideas from or is it things leap out and demand attention more often than not.

It’s all different depending on occasion. But mainly I would say I come across a subject or whatever I want to illustrate and from there start digging in detail to obtain as much facts or information on it as possible. Further I recollect, pen it down and assemble, try to structure and make it rhythmic, on and of back and forth. But, on the other hand, the lyrics that Lars writes is rather the opposite I think, he just spews it out and what comes around goes around ‘til of course it has to somewhere connect to our conceptual worth. Also some things come easier as for this album where many songs are based on and around our own immediate surroundings. So in a way we’re then using our ancestral path as inspiration as well as we give it our reverence; we’ve heard the tales and seen the sites since early childhood so it comes natural for us to use to bring out to others.

How do you feel your songs relate to the modern world and its conflicts etc., and is that something the band bears in mind when writing lyrics or do you just concentrate on the landscape emerging across tracks and releases from their seed idea primarily?

We’re all about looking backwards, ha-ha, we concentrate and reflect upon myths and sagas and our own historical presence…our heritage and ancestral path. Sure there are once in a while some that relate to modern times which could be religious mockery or things that could be related to in modern society and the struggles in daily life. We don’t really have any plan on what and how things such as this are going to be like on the albums as the songs stand alone. We neither have frames we have to stay inside and that’s pretty clear when checking the variety out on the songs for Karg which is more wide spread than ever before. I think it’s good to leave it open and still be able to reflect upon other things than just Viking era or Norse mythology…this of course being a big part of us but not solely. For conflicts, political and what not, these are subjects I don’t see or think we’ll ever dig into as that’s not really our thing or something we’d like to bring into the concept of King of Asgard.

Did you approach the recording of Karg this time around compared to previous releases?

It more or less has been in the same way. We got much studio experience even before King of Asgard and know what needs to be taken care of to be able to get the stuff on tape in the most effective way. As we’ve now also worked with Andy and Sonic Train Studios for the third time we know how to be prepared and what to expect. Entering with Karg I guess the working process was pretty much the same as the predecessors but in a way more confident and even more prepared one. We know what we need to work more on and know how to face obstacles which we’ve learned on the two previous sessions. So things work the same just way more professional and effective and also we now feel safe and experiment more on the sound.

Does the band like to take finished songs into the recording process or like to give them room in that scenery to expand and develop further?

More or less everything is finished in detail before we get into the studio; even pre-productions of the songs are recorded. But sure we have them open for new ideas and interpretations which often come up when you are in the studio recording. The last song was finished just a few weeks before entering Sonic Train Studios but nothing’s set until it’s on the master and delivered. We constantly change things during the writing process going back and forth. Same goes for the recording, things that pop up like background choir, guitars in different harmonies and stuff like that are carefully taken care of. This is also much do to the fact we got limited studio time and thus we need everything done and planned to be able to reach our goal. It’s of course a pity and somewhat frustrating not being able to finalize all ideas and try new ones in the studio but that’s how it is when finances run the whip.

How does the songwriting generally play out within the band?king-of-asgard_photo02

Karl and I are responsible for the songwriting. We work close together on all ideas and put everything together from the first until the last stage. He writes the most and the main parts and I bring in the details and structure everything, along with him of course. It works really well as we know each other very well and complete each other with our slightly different background and musical directions. All in all it turns into King of Asgard. From there on we bring it to the rehearsal place and further adjustments are being made along with the other guys. It’s always under construction and nothing’s set until the day of recording but I would say the songs are close to album structure before we enter the studio with both music and the words put upon it.

You mentioned earlier that the album was recorded with Andy LaRocque at Sonic Train Studios, as your previous albums. Obviously you guys get on well with him and he understands something which brings your sounds alive as imagined?

I guess he does. It’s a steady relationship we’ve built up and it’s a comfortable and a somewhat safe choice to enter Sonic Train as we’ve got limited recording time in the studio. We have returned to Andy because it is very, as said, comfortable and great to work both with him as person, engineer and co-producer in his studio and also this time we also got to work with his co-worker Olof Berggren. We have built a strong partnership where both parties are pleased and work very effectively together. We are both driven to constantly take King of Asgard a step further and with Andy as co-producer it gives us a lot and we push ourselves constantly to the ultimate. It has never been said though that it is the only studio for King of Asgard. It’s just the way it has turned out and the future will show where the next turn will take us. Andy is an awesome dude who has the right tools for us as a band to use and thus to accomplish what we want to achieve. Our visits get more relaxed and at the same time more professional and more effective. We enjoy working with Andy, as does he with King of Asgard…a great combination and basic foundation for an even greater production where he makes realization of our visions.

Playing Devil’s Advocate and talking generally do you feel that possibly working with the same person in the same place runs the risk of familiarity and too safe a feel for a release? Not, we hasten to say, that this applies to Karg ha-ha.

Sure this could easily happen but we have considered it well before going on another round as we’ve returned to work with same studio, cover artist and photographer. For us it was rather strengthening us as we know somewhat where we end up and what we have to face as our frames are limited and thus we have to work hard to get the best result out of it and not run into mistakes. But for sure it’s a risk one takes and we know it is and up until now we’ve conquered it and also discussed this topic so we’ll see what will happen next on this matter. It’s a risky business, ha-ha.

What comes next for King of Asgard?

Unfortunately there are no tours nor festivals planned at this moment; not the best time of the year to release a new album. Anyway, right now we’re putting all our focus on the release of the album which was just around the past corner, a lot of promotion to be done and still coming in. We’ll hopefully get our shit together and do some shows in the short distance and so forth. Most likely we’ll also starting to write some new material as soon as we feel the time’s right and I know Karl’s already begun.

Once again thanks you for sharing your time and words with us; any last thoughts you would like to end with?

Our pleasure, thanks for the support! Keep checking in on our channels, make sure to pick up Karg which now is unleashed upon thee in all possible formats!

Horns up you all followers of the King and first and foremost, Pete and the Ringmaster Review. Cheers!

 

Read the review of Karg @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/king-of-asgard-karg/

http://www.kingofasgard.com/

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 14/08/2014

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Bastion – Vremya borby

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Like a potent book you cannot put down, there is a magnetism and intensive lure to Vremya borby, the new album from Russian folk metallers Bastion, which is inescapable. Severely rugged and antagonistically muscular yet melodically mesmeric, the second album from the band is a striking and commanding enticement, folk metal at its instinctively formidable best.

Formed in 2002, Bastion began with a sound bred from heavy and power metal influences but through several line-up changes before and after, as well as natural evolution, their sound found its home in Pagan/Folk metal inspired by the ‘struggle for the revival of Pagan Ideology and Traditions of their Nation’. 2007 saw the release of the demo Remembering the Past but it was debut album The Dawn of Svarog in 2011 which awoken a richer attention upon the band. Before its release, Bastion was already looking ahead to its successor, working on its visual design with Peter Podkolzin before in the following year, laying down the drums for the next encounter. Created over two years, Vremya borby, translated as ‘The time to struggle’, was completed and unleashed to show a new intensity and aggressive to the Krasnoznamensk sextet’s sound in which they thrillingly employ an enthralling mix of varied folk flavours and instruments.

Released via Der Schwarze Tod, the album immediately makes an intensive impression with an attention grabbing flow of rhythms and a subsequent squall of riffs and sonic rapacity as opener Arkona 1168 consumes ears. It is a formidable and thick web of sound which alone potently coaxes but once the folk spawned melodies of pipes add their temptation, the track elevates to an even greater enticement. Riffs and rhythms continue to badger the senses, at times leaning intensely upon them and in other spaces pummelling their surface as the urgency and aggressive intent of the song continues to show its sinews and ferocity. The vocals make for an intriguing and pleasing aspect too, their raw and gruff attack at odds with the melodic side of the song whilst aligning to the hostile roar elsewhere but they make the perfect fit within the riveting mesh.

The title track steps up next with a similar intent and structure but a mellower tone within a still rabid tempest of attitude and sound. As it evolves the track spreads a distinctly different and adventurous charm to its predecessor, melodies CD coverand hooks an insatiable tempting within a restrained but keenly intrusive charge of sound. As all tracks it provides an adventure which is a tale of its own and even though the narrative is sung in Russian the imagination is pressed into shaping its own visions and interpretations. With a sonic invention and swirling acidic endeavour, the track soars and incites emotions with ease for another impressive step in the landscape of the album, one soon taken up another level by the pair of Zavety (Behest) and Boevaya (War Song). The first of the two is part stalking predator and part rabid horde as it surges upon ears and thoughts. Its body is never an outright fury or assault but certainly one which intimidates with instinctive predation, even as the delicious web of traditional folk wood instruments colour the imposing shadows of the song. It is a stirring encounter with the throaty bass prowess especially thrilling though it is soon left slightly in the shade of its successor. The second of the two calls with citric pipes initially before immersing in a thunderous charge of riffs and rhythms ridden by the lordly and raucous vocals. It is an enthralling call to arms, muscles clashing in the air as a melodic seduction, especially from keys and horns, brings hope fuelled hues and dawns to the building hostility as it thrusts thoughts right in the midst of sweat soaked, dirt clad warrior bonding.

The albums best track is followed by Moya Zemlya (My Land) which has the unenviable of trying to compete with its predecessor. Rawer and dirtier than the previous song, and even more hostile, the track rummages through the senses with a malicious vocal and caustic sonic voracity. It is a destructive engagement until the moment the song reins in its spite for another absorbing evocative passage of melodic imagination and emotion which in turn inflames the potency of the returning tenacious fury of the track. Though it does not manage to match earlier songs, it is a compelling and ravenous provocation which is soon a distant memory once the might of Bylina takes over. Though the group vocals with their tribal discord labour in their convincing the torrential and unrelenting nagging of riffs and punchy rhythms seduce ears and emotions with sublime ease. It is a lure which only tightens its grip as pipes dance and flirt with their rich tapestry of expression and sound over the merciless and scintillating surging of riffs and rhythms.

The album closes with V pesnyah dedov (In Songs Ancestors), an eleven minute epic which scars and seduces, ravishes and entices across its evolving soundscape of sound and lyrical emprise. It is a fine conclusion to an excellent release which has everything you wish from a folk metal release and more in a masterfully unrefined and honest encounter. Bastion is without doubt a band to take notice of.

Vremya borby is available via Der Schwarze Tod now @ http://www.ebay.com/itm/BASTION-Vremya-Borby-CD-2013-Pagan-folk-metal-/131099358329

https://www.facebook.com/bastion.pagan

8.5/10

Ringmaster 31/07/2014

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

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King of Asgard – Karg

King of Asgard 2014

With their new album our introduction to King of Asgard, expectations of Karg were bred from the influence and suggestion of others. The band’s third album follows the widely acclaimed debut Fi’mbulvintr of 2010 and the similarly well-received …to North two years later. The former especially is mentioned in lustful voices so hopes and anticipation for the bands new full-length was keenly high. What emerged is a release which initially did not completely convince. Certainly the band’s raw blackened death metal impressed in weight, craft, and malevolence yet it lay relatively dormant in the passions. As with all releases though the first couple of ventures were mere suggestions and subsequent listens began revealing a much broader and inventive proposition. It would be wrong to say that the album has managed to light a fire in our imagination and passions yet but it has become one tenaciously compelling protagonist over time. How it sits against the previous King of Asgard albums we will have to let others say for now but Karg is definitely an album worth a decent perusal.

The Swedish band was formed in 2008 by vocalist/guitarist Karl Beckman alongside drummer Karsten Larsson, the pair having played together in Viking metallers Mithotyn. Drawing on Norse heritage lyrically, the band released the demo Prince of Märings in 2009 before being joined that same year by bassist Jonas Albrektsson, once of Thy Primordial. The demo drew strong attention from labels and by the December of the same year King of Asgard has signed with Metal Blade Records. Fi’mbulvintr caused a big stir in the metal scene with its release the following year. Recorded with Andy LaRocque, as both the subsequent albums, it strongly thrust the band onto the folk/extreme metal map. Second guitarist Lars Tängmark was then recruited as the band hit the live side of things across 2010/11 before the band settled down to work on and create sophomore album …to North.

The dark and harshly lit soundscape of Karg is the next confrontation for ears and emotions from the band, its title meaning barren in English which is a perfect description of the stark atmosphere it carries, and to be honest of that first initial persuasion. As with all things closer inspection reveals creative nooks and crannies though; the unpredictable elements which breathe and tempt below the surface, and it is undeniable that Karg has a wealth of those lures.

The distant portentous storm of what feels like a brewing battle front makes way for the wonderfully nagging riffery of The Runes of Hel, the guitars calling invitingly from within the still rumbling scenery. Swiftly rampant rhythms are King of Asgard - Kargin league with the inciting guitars, as are soon after the gravelly growls of Beckman. There is virulence to the eventual charge of the track which has attention and appetite recruited keenly, more so as it expands its creative and lyrical narrative. Persistently guided by that niggle of a toxic groove which set it in motion, the track continues to enthral and impress with its at times subtle twists and caustic melodies within the overall intimidation of the song, making for an open attraction to greedily devour.

It is a mighty start which has hopes licking their lips for what is to follow. The Trickster comes next, striding in on imposing riffs to which shards of sonic enticement blazes. It is a magnetic entrance, especially with the group vocal calls, but despite prowling energetically loses its impetus. The grooving lures and crisp rhythms make a forcible draw whilst riffs and vocals roar pleasingly but the track feeds more than defies expectations, missing the inventive colouring of its predecessor. There are engaging twists within it to keep interest and satisfaction high though and make it an encounter you want to explore more, just like its successor Highland Rebellion. Aggression and antagonism is high from its first breath, the call to arms rhythmically and in atmosphere a potent coaxing within and around the menacing textures and attitude of the track. Again though, it lacks the spark to ignite the passions which disappoints, even if ears and imagination are admittedly quite content.

Remnant of the Past marks a shift in the strength of the album, the track returning its appeal to the levels of the first track with adventure and raw enterprise. Its coarse wind of riffs and punchy rhythms makes an intriguing beckoning but it is when the storm drops and the bass takes centre stage with its sinister tone as Beckman’s equally noir lilted vocals snarl out the lyrical bait, that there is a new potency to track and release. The song continues to stalk ears with roaming riffs and concussive rhythms but reined in by that threatening air. The song persistently surprises to incite a new hunger for the release, its winding melodic tempting and group vocals adding extra taste to the richly appetising proposition. It is soon left in the shade of the outstanding Omma though. From an elegant piano crafted caress the track builds a brooding dusty squall of sonic and rhythmic intimidation. It is not hostile but certainly warlike which is accentuated by the great vocal drone which comes in, its primal chant like a meditative tribal coming together in preparation for battle. That intensity erupts with warring rhythms and vocal causticity but bound again by delicious melodic straps of enterprise and emotively atmospheric textures. Ultimately barbarous in its intent there is also a seduction to the song which leaves thoughts and passions basking.

Both The Heritage Throne and Huldran keep things at a heightened level, the first especially contagious in its creative suasion. The track strolls in with rhythmic muscles poised and confident swaggering riffs. The bass finds a gutsier growl too which only adds to the captivating and bruising rapacity of the song. It is another track unafraid to explore different avenues, arguably too few of the songs doing so upon Karg. With slow moves into clean harmonies over melodic respites and equally restrained crawls of heavy weight predation veined by majestic sonic hues, the song is an enthralling offering. Its successor is pure vitriol in sound and presence, a furious rabidity but veined by irresistible grooves and intrigue clad ideation. Many of the songs on the album are slow burners in persuasion, this more than most but it evolves into one of the most eagerly digested incitements over time.

The album is concluded by firstly Rising, a brutally imposing and exciting encounter which also takes time to permeate thoughts and feelings but does so with a tenacity and tempest of sound and imagination which leads to a stealing of full praise, and lastly a brilliant cover of Bathory’s Total Destruction. I know this will upset a great many but with its punk/thrash fuel and urgency, and outright inhospitable infectiousness, the track takes the original to another level and along with Omma is the pinnacle of the album.

Karg has still not lit a fire in the belly but with each and every listen just grows and brings a stronger persuading and is easy to whole heartedly recommend.

Karg is available via Metal Blade Records now @ http://www.metalblade.com/kingofasgard/

http://www.kingofasgard.com/

8/10

RingMaster 23/07/2014

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Falconer – Black Moon Rising

Falconer - Gruppbild 2014 I

Sure to please long-time fans of the band, Swedish folk power metallers Falconer return with their eight album and an embracing of the sound which bred their earliest presence. It is not as clear cut as it sounds though because the quintet also craft a compelling web of modern metal tenacity and at times hostility to create a varied, often unpredictable, and constantly rewarding proposition. Falconer has always been a band which either clicked with or missed our preferences up to this point but despite still elements which fall on our stony ground, Black Moon Rising surpasses all that came before and has little trouble leaving rich satisfaction in its wake to temper our difficult demands.

Formed in 1999 as a solo project by guitarist Stefan Weinerhall (ex-Mithotyn) with Mathias Blad stepping in as session vocalist, Falconer soon become a full band with the addition of drummer Karsten Larsson. From their self-titled debut album in 2001, the band had attention and passions falling over themselves as well as a wealth of acclaim. Its successor Chapters From A Vale Forlorn a year later marked another step forward for the band, though the year also saw Blad leave the band. With Kristoffer Göbel enlisted as the new singer, third album Sceptre of Deception in 2003 was unveiled to again strong reception whilst a year later another line-up change saw guitarist Jimmy Hedlund and bassist Magnus Linhardt joining Weinerhall, Larsson, and Göbel. A twist in style accompanied the next album before a more recognisable, and arguably wanted by fans, flavour returned as the next trio of albums lit up an ever increasing fanbase starting with Grime vs. Grandeur which marked the return of Blad. Recorded with Andy LaRocque at Sonic Train Studios, Black Moon Rising follows the entirely sung in Swedish Armod of 2011, taking those earlier ventures and sounds of the band on a brand new and rigorously captivating emprise.

Riffs and attention seeking rhythms open up first track Locust Swarm, which in turn awakens attention and an early appetite through Falconer - Black Moon Risingthe following energetic rabidity and deeply rooting hooks across a blazing sonic canvas. Soon settling into steady stroll as the narrative and Blad unveil their expressive tales, the song is swarming around and within the imagination whilst rhythms buffet ears. The song is a mix bag, the ravenous and predatory aspects of the track exhilarating and the mellower passages around the vocals slightly underwhelming in comparison. Nevertheless with the individual skills and combined enterprise, the track is a more than solid entrance into the emerging power metal landscape, setting up the listener nicely for the following Halls and Chambers. The haunting whispers within a cavernous hall is a great portentous introduction but not exploited fully as the song goes on a similar charge as in its predecessor. What emerges to take it another step forward though is an indefinable but open familiarity to the chorus and melodic tempting which flows as courageously as the breath and anthemic riffery through the track. Again it is not a song to lose full ardour to but with the delicious sculpting of guitar and a nagging persuasion it is an encounter to immerse in often, especially its great hard rock/folk metal finale, the beauty of melodies and vocals hand in hand with the beast of the bass.

The album truly erupts with the title track next, the song a muscular warrior of rapacious rhythms and eagerly roving grooves carrying the colours of infectious melodies and riveting imagination. By the first round of its anthemic chorus the track easily outweighs and outstrips its predecessors, enslaving thoughts and passions with a continually shifting aural scenery but never straying from the potent core which stole the plaudits within its opening breaths. Larsson impresses from first swiping jab to the last whilst the guitar ingenuity of Weinerhall perfectly assisted by Hedlund, bewitch and ignite a greater greedy appetite for the album.

The enchanting coaxing of folk stroll Scoundrel and the Squire has the misfortune of following such an epic but from its gentle initial caress builds a persistently expanding and tempting landscape of unpredictable beats and fiery guitar wrapped in poetic and melodic hues. Like its music its success and appeal grows and enriches ears the further it explores its premise before making way for the scintillating Wasteland, a track which attacks ears with a scourge mentality from the off before, and without losing its agile intimidation, grabbing its sonic steeds and galloping magnetically across the senses with rhythmic nostrils flaring and antagonistic riffs baring teeth. It is another major pinnacle within the album, feet and neck muscles as soon devoted to its suasion as ears and emotions.

Both In Ruins and At the Jester’s Ball keep things boiling nicely, even if they miss the lip of the previous plateau cast. The first borders on rock pop even within a tirade of blasting beats and exhaustive riffing, the song forging a great and enthralling mix of vivacious invention and raucous intensity, whilst its successor is a satisfying romp suiting the artistic revelry imagined by its title. Neither leaves thoughts awe struck but undeniably both add to the pleasure and fun being devoured by this point of the album before being shown the way by There’s a Crow on the Barrow, another insatiable gallop with melodic flanks over thunderous hoofs of rhythmic intent and heavily enticing riffs.

Dawning of a Sombre Age despite is open invention and masterful presentation leaves established heights alone though sculpting its own definitely pleasing level before the album concludes with the voracious and fascinating Age of Runes and the jubilant dance of The Priory. Each song brings the album to an impressive end, the first an absorbing proposition which never leaves expectations anything to truly feast upon whilst the last is just Falconer and their distinctive sound at their creative best.

Black Moon Rising has moments of brilliance and others where it merely pleases without much more but makes for an exciting and enthralling encounter overall proving Falconer have plenty left in their fire keep on setting power and folk metal new adventures to eagerly anticipate.

Black Moon Rising is available via Metal Blade Records now!

http://www.falconermusic.com/

7.5/10

RingMaster 11/02/201

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Gods and Sirens : an interview with Heri Joensen of Týr

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 The recent release of their seventh album shows that Týr is a band which continues to create dramatically enthralling confrontations bred from Faroese and Norwegian lore narratives merged with fiercely burning metal. Valkyrja is a strikingly riveting encounter cementing Týr as one of the most potent forerunners to folk and melodically aggressive metal. Fortunate and grateful to steal some of the free time of vocalist/guitarist Heri Joensen whilst the band is touring Europe with Finntroll, we get to the depths of their new album, Nordic folklore, songwriting and much more…

Hi Heri, good to meet you and thanks for talking with us.

My pleasure :-)

Before we get to the focus of the interview, your excellent new album Valkyrja, can you give us some background to the origins of Týr, the inspiration and emergence of the band?

We’re a heavy metal band from the Faeroes. We draw inspiration from Nordic folklore and mythology for our music and lyrics. We’ve been around since 1998, first album in 2001. Valkyrja is our seventh album. Even though we’re usually labelled pagan folk Viking metal, we don’t think we fit that category very well, since we have no ethnic instruments and no extreme vocals

As you mentioned you fuse Faroese folklore and sounds with predacious heavy metal, when did this idea and venture take seed in your thoughts and did you sculpt the approach of the band in the delivery of the music or was that as organic as the songwriting and music?

I had the idea sometime in the mid-nineties. The idea seemed very basic and came naturally, but the execution of it took a lot of adjusting and trials and errors. It took hard work to get to where we are today and we still work hard to keep the standards up and to constantly improve our songwriting and image.

Can you give us some insight to the traditional sounds and mythology/history of the Faroe Islands and musically how it is distinct to say Norwegian or Icelandic traditional sounds for us uninformed souls?

The official mythology is fairly uniform when it comes to the Nordic countries. Almost all of it comes from Iceland. Some parts come from Denmark and some from the Faeroes, but the great bulk of it was written down in Iceland 900 years ago. As for folklore, some myths have been preserved to varying degrees in the rural areas of all the Nordic countries up to recent times; stories about elves, dwarves and other mythological creatures. My grandmother for example told me that the elves disappeared when electric light was introduced to the Faeroes.

As for the music I guess, without knowing that the Faeroes have preserved the most original medieval ballads; although there are quite a few on mainland Scandinavia. Iceland has ironically not preserved the ballads very well, since it was made illegal to perform them there some 300 years ago. The typical Faeroese ballad is very heavy and staccato, whereas the Danish ballads have very beautiful and haunting melodies and flow very easily. Norwegian music is extremely lively and bouncy. It may sound from this that there’s great variation, but the difference I’m talking about here may be negligible to the foreign ear.

Is it an easy and fluid merger between heavy and traditional sounds or do you have to craft and sculpt it intensely to make it flow so seamlessly?

It is very easy to merge and it immediately gives us a very distinct sound, but the better you want it to flow the more you need to sculpt it, and that’s what we’ve been doing more and more recently. For example The Lay Of Our Love on Valkyrja is based on a Faeroese/Danish traditional melody, but it had some odd timing in it, and that doesn’t flow very seamlessly in modern straight-forward metal, so I stretched a phrase in the melody to avoid the odd time and I think the result is ok.

Is there a potent reception and appetite in your homeland for not only your music but metal In general?tyr2

We sell a fair amount of albums, as do some other hard rock and metal bands in the Faeroes. Also traditionally there’s a relatively large proportion of the people who like metal, ever since the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal.

And any unrest from traditionalists?

Yes, every now and then, but nothing serious. Mostly people are positive about what we’ve done.

As mentioned you have just released your seventh album Valkyrja, which seems to have a more power metal energy and attack to its invention, how do you see it and how would you say your music has evolve over the releases and especially over the past couple of albums, By the Light of the Northern Star and The Lay of Thrym?

We’ve deliberately gone for a more accessible sound, shorter and more straight forward songs. But we still want to keep our signature sound and not sound like we’ve sold out. As for Valkyrja, I think we’ve re-introduced some progressive elements and still kept it accessible.

There seems to be a less aggressive snarl to some of the songs on the album but that is equalised by a greater intensity and passion to their impact, would that be fair to say?

Yes, that may be. I think the music is more varied, and generally more up-tempo. If you think it has more intensity and passion I take your word for it.

Tell us about the concept of Valkyrja , historically and in its interpretation to men and women today.

The concept is based on the Valkyries from Nordic mythology. The protagonist of the story is a nameless Viking who leaves his woman and his homeland to go off to die in battle, in the hope that a Valkyrie will come for him and bring him to Fólkvangr, the realm of Freyja, goddess of sex among other things. Anyone who has been in a romantic relationship knows that there are ups and downs, and any straight guy knows that once you’ve set your aims for a woman there isn’t much you wouldn’t do to make your dreams come true. Those things are the underlying themes of the album.

What sparks your ideas and themes, one at times imagines it is triggered from tales and mythology passed down through generations of your personal family lines or is that fantasising? 

I first learned about Nordic mythology in school around age 11, and I’ve been fascinated with it ever since, so I can’t say it comes from direct family tradition. It’s more of a national tradition.

I believe the album took a year to come to completion from the writing seeds, is that generally the kind of time you spend on a release or was this an unexpected timescape?

We have released albums now with two year intervals, the last four albums I think, so the timescale was the same as usual. Now we’ve already started the next project and we hope to put more work into that than our previous works, and still release it on the same timescale.

Drummer Kári Streymoy left the band before the album was recorded and you brought in the stick master George Kollias. How did you link up with George?

Our manager set us up with George. They know each other from working together in the past.

What did he bring to Valkyrja which exploited your ideas and sounds to the full, and did he exceed and surprise your hopes and expectations?

He brought a completely new drum approach to Valkyrja. He tried out all sorts of things that we hadn’t thought of, and he definitely improved our sound and the flow of the songs.

Tyr-ValkyrjaHow does the songwriting lyrically and musically come to fruition within the band?

I’ve written most of the material in the past, but we’re trying to change that now, as for the music at least. I’ll probably remain the only lyrics author in the future, but we will try to involve more musical ideas from Terji and Gunnar. Terji wrote two songs for Valkyrja, and I may have added some harmonies. And a third song, Blood Of Heroes is one song I based on a riff by Terji. The title track is based on a riff by Gunnar that I arranged into the song that became the title track.

It is an open process embracing ideas with a democratic intent for the main?

I wouldn’t call it an open process. I guess I rule most of the process, at least when it comes to my songs. I’d like to get all parties involved, but it’s not been so easy in the past especially getting used to working over the internet, and not in a rehearsal room.

It is fair to say that not all aspects of folk metal, and maybe it is down to certain bands, in the past was certainly taken as seriously as it deserved, do you think that has changed over recent years?

I don’t like to think of music in terms of genre. What about folk metal could make it deserve being taken seriously? I find that way of thinking completely pointless. Music will be taken seriously on its own merits, and the least of all merits is what genre it is put in by the labels and the press.

Though it seemed ok for the likes of Slipknot and Mushroomhead to dress up, folk metal bands garbed in Viking and warrior attire was almost a joke to the media for a while. Did you face that kind of thought when first emerging and has that become a thing of the past now do you think?

For us it is a thing of the past, definitely. But I see some bands still do it. It’s an image, nothing more, nothing less. The music is still what it is. Imagine if you were blind, the music would still be the same, no matter what the musicians wear on stage. This image thing is all in our heads; still we allow it to interpret the music for us, or to determine whether or not to take it seriously.

As we hold this interview you are amidst a European tour with Finntroll, how is that going and what has the reception to tracks from Valkyrja live been like?

The tour is going well, at the moment we’re enjoying a day off in Strasbourg, France. The new songs have been received particularly well, better than any of our previous releases. Turnout for the shows has been very good too, and we’re very glad we got to be on this tour.

Thanks you again for sharing time to chat with us, any last thoughts before diving back into the tempest of touring?

You’re welcome. Please buy our new album, Valkyrja, and please come to our shows when we play somewhere near you. We’ll put on a great show for you and we’ll all have a good time, how’s that ;-)

Read the review of the Metal Blade Records released Valkyrja @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/tyr-valkyrja/

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 14/10/2013

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Týr – Valkyrja

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The past decade has seen Faroe Islands metallers Týr grab and cage their own potent place at the fore of folk metal, their Faroese or Norwegian lore spawned creative narratives and traditional seeded sound an ever dramatically enthralling confrontation which has ignited the passions of a loyal growing legion of followers. Their new and seventh album Valkyrja continues the ever persuasive and riveting stature of their presence and their inventively bred form of Viking metal. It is a release which maybe at times struggles to emulate the full heights of previous Týr albums such as By the Light of the Northern Star and The Lay of Thrym, but equally very often it roars from new pinnacles set by the band with fires of imagination and quality burning fiercely. Overall Valkyrja is a pungently agreeable and strikingly riveting encounter, the notice that Týr is still a leading power of folk metal.

Their first release with Metal Blade Records, Valkyrja is a ‘concept album themed loosely around an anonymous Viking age warrior who leaves his woman and goes off to impress the Valkyrie on the battlefield so that she may bring him to Valhalla, or to Fólkvangr, the home of Freyja—the goddess associated with love, sexuality, beauty, fertility, gold, sorcery, war, and death’. At the same time seemingly looking at how far men will go to impress women and their influence on these acts and ideas, the album took a year from writing to completion. Recorded with Jacob Hansen, the album also sees George Kollias (Cerebrum, The Circle of Zaphyan, Extremity Obsession, Nightfall, Nile…) providing the drums on the recording alongside vocalist/guitarist Heri Joensen, guitarist Terji Skibenæs, and bassist Gunnar H. Thomsen, his skills replacing Kári Streymoy who parted ways with TÝR after the band completed their US run on Pagan Fest.

The addition of the Greek stick master immediately has an impact with opener Blood of Heroes, his touch debatably less intensive and Ty'r - Valkyrjaaggressive than his predecessor but offering a more stylish blaze of rhythmic provocation and framework for songs. The first rapping of the ear amidst fire steeled grooves and melodic twisting is respectful but commanding as it casts a firm web for the ever impressive vocals of Joensen and the scintillating guitar imagination to carve their exceptional design within. The opener alone reports that the artistry and melodic ingenuity of the band is as rich and absorbing as ever whilst the energetic urgency and persuasion of the musical narrative is overwhelmingly insistent and tempting.

The following Mare of My Night, with its succubus like sexual seduction laying down an intensive and sonically hued adventure which seemingly has come under fire for its lyrical content by a few for some reason, dances with the imagination and passion through a shadow clad bewitchment which itself preys welcomingly whilst its successor Hel Hath No Fury takes little time in taking and holding onto best track status upon Valkyrja. As many of the songs there is a thrash predation to the track to provide a rapacious hunger and sinew within the infectious torrent of anthemic allurement from vocals, harmonies, and chorus underpinned by a deliciously blistering guitar ingenuity and rhythmic stroll. Irresistibly contagious and epically magnetic, the song is the band at its captivating best.

Both The Lay of Our Love and Nation continue the strong start even if within the shade of the previous triumph; the first of the pair a fetching ballad featuring a duet between and guest vocalist Liv Kristine from Leave’s Eyes and its successor a bullish charge with sinews flaring like the nostrils of a muscle driven stallion as it expels a sonically lit intensity erupting into scorching melodic flames. They are soon surpassed by Another Fallen Brother, a song with a thrash embrace which at times undeniably has a Metallica like breath and a littering of grooves and melodic contagion which employs the full range of senses and imagination through to emotions in its irrepressibly galvanic enterprise.

The ‘vintage’ Týr like call of Grindavi’san and the busy melodic weave of Fa’nar Burtur Brandaljo’d keeps ears and emotions riveted whilst between the two songs, Into the Sky regains the lofty heights of some of the previous songs which the surrounding ones let slip slightly. A flight through soaring vocals and sonic flames whilst a melody enriched tonic of excellence smoulders within and ignites the passions into a greedy hunger for the song’s invention, the track is a deeply satisfying treat. Lady of the Slain and the title track are equally dynamically tantalising and commanding of the passions, the first a broad call of full chested rhythmic and intensive sonic invention across yet another fascination of melodic and harmonic folk spawned rabidity whilst its partner is a slowly burning entrapment which builds with emotive expertise and musical grandeur into a spellbinding courting of the listener.

Completed by two cover songs, Iron Maiden’s Where Eagles Dare, and Pantera’s Cemetery Gate, the first simply a more than decent encounter and the second a more inspired and intriguing thrill, Valkyrja is a thoroughly engaging and riotously anthemic release which at its height leaves the majority of folk metal releases in its wake and at its lower levels stands as an inspiring equal to the best many others have to offer. Týr still roam the highest towers of their genre it is fair to say on the evidence of Valkyrja.

http://www.tyr.fo/

8/10

RingMaster 17/09/2013

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VallorcH – Neverfade

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    Neverfade is the debut album from seven strong Italian folk warriors VallorcH, a band which ignites the imagination and passions with their thrilling full-length landscape of muscular defiance and melodic festivities. It is not a release without a few issues but undoubtedly is one drenched in promise and most of all is a thoroughly enjoyable enterprise.

Formed in 2010 by guitarist Marco Munari, guitarist and provider of the vocal growls Matteo Patuelli, and drummer Massimo Benetazzo, VallorcH with the intent to merge death and traditional folk metal was soon expanded by the addition of Demetrio Rampin (bagpipes, whistles and accordion), Sara Tacchetto (vocals, bagpipes), Leonardo Dalla Via (scream and clean vocals, bass), and Francesco Salviato (violin) who before the album left the band to be replaced by Martina Mezzalira. May of last year saw the first release from the band in the well-received shape of the Stories of North EP consisting of five tracks, of which three are revisited on the album. That year also saw the band support the likes of Corvus Corax at Folk Festival in Piacenza swiftly followed by Fosch Fest in Bergamo where the septet opened for artists such as Trollfest, Negura Bunget, Kivimetsan Druidi and Folkstone. As September turned into view the band entered the studio to record Neverfade, with the opportunity to support Arkona on a date of their anniversary tour coming during the recording.

Released earlier this year by Moonlight Records, we always catch up eventually, Neverfade is a captivating encounter which leaves a book5mm_Pagina_01definite hunger and want for more from the band. It does not exactly set down new ventures and examples for folk metal but there is a vibrancy and adventure within the walls of the release and its songs that leave you seduced. It is not perfect by any means but offers plenty that more established and arguably eagerly received releases and artists have been lacking over the past couple of years. Researching for the review it is not hard to notice that a few are coming down hard on the band for coming from Italian and playing Celtic seeded music. As the album impresses it seems a truly trivial complaint, if something is skilled, openly accomplished, and created with passion, as well as sounding damn good as here, there really is no validity in that put down.

The album opens with the brief instrumental Night Fades…, an ok scene setting lead into the album and the excellent Voices Of North. Emerging from the sound of waves breaking upon shore, a guitar unveils a spiral of sonic temptation to heat up the air before being swiftly joined by eager rhythms, driving riffs, and melodic whispers. It is a steady canter straining at its leash to explode whilst being coaxed into greater intensity by the grizzled growls spraying malevolence across the air. It is the vocals of Tacchetto though which takes the lead, her tones instantly appealing if a little less controlled than they could be at times. With Patuelli stirring up the ear with his bear like animosity too it is a potent mix against the energetic melodic fire laying its narrative behind, accordion and whistles especially tantalising and the vocal harmonies later into the song simply delicious.

The very strong start is followed even more potently and impressively by Fialar which is led into view by the short burst of tempting revelry Join The Dance!, its seamless passing into the fourth track unnoticeable such their fluid kinship and union. A torrent of contagious rapacious riffing and rhythmic antagonism joins the party first, another dark and light merger of attention gripping craft, but soon shows restraint as Tacchetto with her finest moment on the album, begins her irresistible tale and delivery. The track switches musically and especially vocally throughout, the heavy scowls and nasty grunts breaking up the festival with the perfect shadows and intimidation. It is an outstanding and inventive song which steals the honours on the album with ease.

Both Endless Hunt and Sylvan Oath stand tall in their effort to match their predecessor, the first with a ravenous hunger to riffs and rhythms courted by entrancing melodic persuasion and all in the shadow of a compelling intensity whilst its successor is an inventive fury of heavy predacious menace. Neither manages to rival the previous song but both leave the appetite alive for more. The production of the second of the pair is not great either especially in regard to Tacchetto’s soprano soaring which is smothered into the background, as are other elements in the track.

The jovial and perky instrumental Störiele makes a refreshing aside for the album before Silence Oblivion steps forward to immediately impress with the excellent vocal union of Tacchetto and the clean tones of Dalla Via. It is a stunning mix which is not used enough on the album and hopefully will be explored more ahead, and as Patuelli riles the air also they make for an equally successful threesome before he dominates the prime attack from there on in, which does disappoints a little. The song is a commanding and provocative encounter which plays with brutality as much as it creates flames of melodic beauty. It is a great track which ebbs and flows a little in successful just missing out on classic status but when it works it is glorious.

Anguana and Leave A Whisper next make for satisfying companions, though both lack some of the spark and imagination to leave fires burning in the passions, whilst The End much like Silence Oblivion has as much to not get on with as it has to ignite ardour with. A marching rhythmic call to arms draws thoughts into its body with ease though the vocals of Tacchetto for once fail to hit the spot, her delivery at times flat and almost distant to the heart of the song. It is not a major problem though as musically the lure and hooks of the song, as well as its melodic toxin is virulent in its infectiousness and colourful persuasion, and the further it stomps into its length the track emerges as another of the bigger highlights on the album, especially its insidious hornet like stinging grooves.

With the more than decent …A New Light Rises completing the release, Neverfade is a richly pleasing album to revel and immerse within. Certainly not flawless as it shows that VallorcH has plenty of room to expand and explore within their creativity, the album is an exciting and appetising adventure to bring a fresh spark to folk metal and fans of the likes of Arkona, Finntroll, and Korpiklaani.

https://www.facebook.com/vallorch

8/10

RingMaster 06/09/2013

 

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