Following up their acclaimed debut album Fi’mbulvintr, Swedish metalers King of Asgard return with an even more impressive and irresistible release in …to North. Once more bringing a potent blend of pagan/folk metal steeped in Norse mythology and blackened melodic death metal, the band treat the ear to sounds which at worst leave one truly satisfied and at its height fired up with hot blood surging through the veins.
The great thing about King of Asgard and …to North is that the sounds are more controlled in comparison to other similar cored bands, the music letting its craft and imagination shine and infect the senses rather than relying on flamboyant and exaggerated chest beating charges to capture the imagination. Not that the release is lacking that aspect, at times it is a musical call to arms for the passions and delivers some delicious melodic hooks to trigger a fuller contagion but it is for want of a better word restrained and a element of the great songwriting rather than the focal point.
Formed in 2008 by vocalist and guitarist Karl Beckman, the band soon expanded with the addition of drummer Karsten Larsson who had played with Beckman in the Viking metalers Mithotyn. The following year saw the recording and release of seven track demo Prince of Märings which was well received and the addition of ex-Thy Primordial bassist Jonas Albrektsson in November. The twilight weeks of 2009 also saw the band sign with Metal Blade Records who were as so many impressed by the demo. Fi’mbulvintr was recorded and released in 2010, its thirteen striking songs recorded with Andy LaRocque who returned to work with the band on …to North. The trio as they prepared for taking the album live to the world by bringing in guitarist Lars Tängmark to expand to a quartet, pulled in a growing and eager acclaim for the album and first video of the opening song Einhärjar with Rickard Moneus from the production company 1897. The beginning of this year saw the band complete the songwriting for their second album and what a mighty result they have come up with.
From a heralding intro the album ignites with the outstanding The Nine Worlds Burn, a song which paces through the ear with strength and confidence before unleashing a storm of caustically scouring vocals and thumping riffs. It plunges the senses over cliffs of towering rhythms and heartily driven energy to concoct an infectious and heart pumping intensity. The song immediately shows the album is continuing where its predecessor left off but with an evolved invention and intent. The song has the body breathless by midway but then throws in a glorious curveball with the stunning vocals of Heléne Blad, her beautiful tones sending wings of fiery elegance across the atmosphere to which the music bows with a tender understanding. Ending on the feisty attack once more it is a great start to the album and lays down the perfect foundation for songs like the following The Dispossessed to unleash their wealth of invention upon, the track a thunderous beast to back up the impressive start.
The next song Gap of Ginnungs features another guest with guitarist Jimmy Hedlund (Falconer, Supreme Majesty) adding a couple of incendiary solos. The track is a part dirge part chant joy which lays a satisfactory plateau in the album soon elevated from by Band To Reunite and the excellent Nordvegr. The first is a brewing cluster of melodic enterprise and ear rippling rhythms which has one surrendering to its class within seconds. Offering another incisive and addictive groove within the intense and growling energy, the track charges up the senses fully in preparation for further songs like Nordvegr, a controlled and bruising stomp which intrigues as much as it lights up the ear.
Plague-ridden Rebirth, a black beast of a song with its dark festering melodies and the warm positive breath of Harvest (The End), ensures a heightened climax whilst the closing instrumental title track is an evocative piece of bristling aggression and melodic wonder. They complete what is a powerful and rewarding release which steps away from similar styled bands with its craft and intelligent composition. Maybe more blood boiling charges would have been nice but really it brings no real complaints before its door and shows King of Asgard as one of the more thoughtful and keen bands out there.
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