Ulvedharr – Swords of Midgard

Ulvedharr

Constantly snarling at the ear, the debut album from Italian metallers Ulvedharr leaves a wealth of satisfaction in its wake as powerful and invigorated as the thrash/death metal fusion which inspires it. Charged with the blood of Vikings surging through its muscular insatiable veins, Swords of Midgard is an uncompromising and raw slab of brute force which ignites the rampage in all of us. Certainly the nine track release is not breaking into new battlefields of invention but it lays waste to those established with contagious confrontation ripe with captivating aggression.

Founded in February 2011, the Clusone band was initially intended as a solo project by vocalist/guitarist Ark Nattlig Ulv, but as songs were written he pulled in other musicians to bring them to life, Ulvedharr ultimately being completed by lead guitarist Fredreyk, bassist Klod, and drummer Mike Bald in line-up. Their first EP Viking Tid followed as well as a European tour with Blood Red Throne and Cattle Decapitation the next year, with the quartet expanding their growing recognition at home and further afield. The signing up with Moonlight Records for their impressive and antagonistic debut album has given them a platform build from which they have seized hungrily.

The album’s intro sets the scene, its sinews flexing as crisp bone splintering rhythms, a carnivorous bass growl, and prowling riffs badger the ear until tender and prime for the taking by the following Lindisfarne. The track instantly segregates the senses from safety with intensive riffing, exhausting energy, and a barrage of drum forged abuse which is skilled and hungry. Into its rapacious stride the band opens its muscular intent wide for the corrosive tones of Ark to scowl and bend the will of the listener with a brutal but compelling vocal delivery; imagined Viking facial hair and vindictive malice enclosing every brutalised and captivating syllable. The impressive start instantly brings thought s of bands such as Entombed, Blood Red Throne, Obituary, and UK’s Saqqara, its rampaging perfectly crafted assault as irresistible as it is knee buckling.

The following Odin Father Never Die and War is in the Eyes of Berserker continue the immense start with equalling ferocity and appeal, the first thrusting riff sculpted grooves in to the heart of the already fully brewed urgent appetite for the release whilst savaging the ear with further addiction drawing rhythmic abuse from Bald. His framing alongside the bass and guitar manipulation of primal bred notes and chords combines for a test which is uncomplicated but wholly effective. The second of the pair slips a delicious almost stoner seeded groove into the initial invitation, the chugging riffs stalking its presence before thrusting it aside for another tremendous thrash forged impressive slaughter. The unbridled attack now at large is not without mercy though and midway into the song it steps aside for a glorious sonic fire of melodic seduction from Fredreyk to recruit the last ounce of submission from the passions. As mentioned already there is nothing new on the loose here or across the album but as it feeds the ear for the umpteenth time whilst writing this piece, it is hard to offer any similarly gaited release as one which is as rewarding or exciting as Swords of Midgard.

Onward To Valhalla stands as the next pinnacle upon the release, arguably its finest moment, the anthemic lure of the chorus and its mass demanding harmonies a thrilling crescendo to a constantly building intensity carved by the persistent riffs, gravel expelling vocals, and as is the norm a rhythmic attack which leaves bruising with every bitch slap and barbed percussive swipe.

There is for personal tastes a slight lull to the might and stance of the album across both Beowulf & Grendel (Part I) and Ymir Song, and though neither track lacks quality or skilled persuasion, they do not light the fires inside as dramatically as their predecessors. The first of the pair features a guest appearance from Lorenzo Marchesi (Folkestone) and is riddled with infectious grooves and melodic beckoning within the skeleton of steel forged rhythms and greedy riffing whilst the second brings a more melodic tenderness to its still eye to eye metal encounter and compelling drive, with the glorious vocals of Lisy Stefanoni (Evenoire) bringing a rich potency to the climax of the song alongside the folk metal march and the scarring scowls of Ark. As stated both tracks are strong and more than decent but sandwiched between what came before and their successor the excellent The Raven’s Flag, they lack a dramatic punch.

The Raven’s Flag gnaws on the bones of the listener, its anthem enriched breath and provocative confrontation joined by a blistering drum testing and a rabid fury of persistent riffing. The band equally seduce with the melodic and sonic fascination which veins the barbarous encounter whilst its closing run through to the finale of the album is wonderfully barbaric tenderising the listener for the sneering riff fest of Harald Harfagri, a track leaving a final uproar with its outstanding group vocals, with those of Ark singularly at their most diverse and impressive, and an unrelenting chewing of the senses.

Swords of Midgard may not bring new realms to conquer but is one familiar battle which could not be more enjoyable and rewarding.

https://www.facebook.com/Ulvedharr

9/10

RingMaster 11/05/2013

 

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War Engine Demo

For all of the great thrash metal bands around the world there is always a bit of excitement when a new one emerges from Eastern Europe. They bring a purer thrash sound to the ear to excite, their seeds sown and cultivated in the origins and strengths of the genre. Serbian band War Engine is no different, young and unapologetic they bring you thrash metal as it should be, in their own words they say “if you want fuckin thrash, we will give you fuckin, fast, badass thrash .“ As their debut demo proves they are true to their word, its three tracks unbridled merciless straight forward thrash pleasure. There is no place for fancy diversions, complicated progressive meanderings or unpredictable perpetual  breakdowns, they simply offer straight from the heart heavy rock n roll.

From Novi Sad the quartet of guitarist Dusan Mijolic, bassist Aleksandar Jakshic, drummer Stefan Stanic, and vocalist/guitarist Luka Francesko, have obvious influences from the likes of Violator, Municipal Waste, Slayer, and Kreator, to name just a few which spring to mind and have absorbed all their best elements to create their own hungry sound. Currently recording their debut album, the demo makes the perfect introduction to the band whilst instigating keen anticipation for their first full length release planned for later in the year.

     The best track on the demo is Chemical Warfare, a track which is destined to be hungrily accepted by all thrash metal fans. Emerging on a sturdy energy the track patiently waits as the drums form a cage of steel and guitars welcome in the ear like an honourable gladiator. One established the song erupts in a riotous assault of cutting guitars, thunderous riffs, and knee buckling rhythms. With an intensity and anthemic power Municipal Waste would be proud of, the track is irresistible and soon has limbs punching air and voice in loud tandem for the chorus. The song does not go for the jugular at break neck speed or with the heaviest armoury but is easily a full and inspiring thrash explosion. As they thump the senses into submission the band remind of the likes of fellow Serbians CounterignitioN and UK band Saqqara, but with their own distinct weaponry.

Civilian Casualties slowly emerges with a simple guitar lead, its notes intriguingly leading into the again relentless pummelling of the senses. The track is a head bangers dream, its riffs and drums a contagious artillery of energy and strikes to have hair and neck in full lustful union. With vocals as caustic and direct as you wish but with the strength to allow clarity to the uncompromising lyrics and theme, the track is another formidable and deeply pleasing confrontation upon the ear.

Completing the release is Revolution, a song which does not quite live up to the power and irresistible pull of the other two but is still a thoroughly enjoyable slab of muscular metal. It like the release as a whole leaves one as breathless and wishing there was more to come.

War Engine is a band which will find a great welcome from thrash fans everywhere and whether it is this demo or their forthcoming album which is the trigger you cannot not see any other outcome. With future radio play coming through The Bone Orchard at The Reputation Radio Show, War Engine are on the march.

RingMaster 20/06/2012

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