Månegarm: Legions Of The North

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As compelling as an impending storm and as dramatically powerful, Legions Of The North from Swedish folk metallers Månegarm catches the breath and imagination as it takes the listener on a stirring ride of Viking/pagan adventure. There have been numerous folk and pagan metal bred releases in recent months to stir up and ignite the passions but few it has to be said as impressive and as fully absorbing as the Norrtälje hailing band’s seventh album.

Formed in 1995, Månegarm have constantly impressed and drawn eager acclaim for their mix of flavours within the cast folk metal, a sound explored constantly by their invention and the use of traditional instruments. Moving through a black metal seeded sound to a more contagious and organic folk imagination, the band has forged a potent place within the genre, albums like the 2003 Dödsfärd and its successor Vredens Tid two years later garnering impressive responses from fans and media. Their live performances have been the same at home and across Europe over the years, and whilst line-ups changes have meant numerous shifts within the band they have continued to build a greater stature within the genre and metal, live and through previous two albums Vargstenen and Nattväsen of 2006 and 2009 respectively. Signing with Napalm Records the line-up of vocalist/bassist Erik Grawsiö, guitarists Markus Andé and Jonas Almkvist, and drummer Jacob Hallegren have returned with what just might be their most immense and thrilling release yet, certainly it leads the pack of recent releases from their contemporaries.

From the desolate ambience of Arise, its brief scene setting raising echoes and spirits of ancient shadows and epic atmospheres, 486_Manegarmthe album leaps upon the awakened sense with its title track. It is an instant blizzard of scathing riffs, debilitating rhythms, and guttural vocal scowls with serpentine rapaciousness. Insatiably hungry and impossibly contagious, the track courts the passions despite its destructive intensity, especially through the clean group calls and cavernous depths suggested and paraded throughout. As the folk heart stakes its claim within the ferocious narrative, the song climbs to greater climes and persuasion leaving an exhausted but exhilarated victim in its wake.

The following Eternity Awaits explores the harsh and warm extremes further, at times a marauding predator and in others allowing melodic breeze to sooth the anger and corrosive energy. As with its predecessor, there is an intriguing and enticing evolution to the song which leaves assumptions redundant and captivation full whilst passions eagerly ride the muscle bound warrior cast confrontation. Like the first it is an instant highlight soon left in the shadow of the towering encounter that is Hordes of Hel. Seemingly the dawning of a new destructive force, sinews are stretched and flexed with persistent incitement whilst wrapping the dark core is a weave of infectious and incendiary melodic enterprise, its welcoming  presence a torch to meet the encroaching shadows. Vocally the track is outstanding, though that could apply to them all, the insidious growls and harmonic clean suasion a fluid and impressive union whilst musically the track fills every thought for an imposing yet triumphantly alluring temptation.

The likes of the heavy chested behemoth Tor Hjälpe, the riff torrent Sons of War, and the ravenously esurient Fallen unleash their own distinctive rigorous furies to feed and enflame brighter the passions. Each track as the album as a whole, uncages a violent rabidity upon the senses whilst employing a beauty and folk seeded elegant call which easily and skilfully and inspires thoughts and imagination into creating their own colourful and resourceful imagery.

Completed by another turbulent ferocity in the shape of the excellent Echoes From The Past and the closing emotive Raadh, a folk song acoustically carved and sung in Swedish by a wonderful fusion of female and male vocals, Legions Of The North provides one enthralling provocative journey which rewards the enduring of senses chewing savagery with tempering melodic seduction. Månegarm creates metal which is not just about assaulting with the ferocity and strength of passion driven warriors but providing a full and rounded sense of tradition and pagan jeopardy, the album is a thrilling canvas for all of this and more.

http://www.manegarmsweden.com/

8.5/10

RingMaster 28/06/2013

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