Bolt the door, snuff out the lanterns, keep out of sight; the Vikings are coming! Rampaging through your village, with fire, sword and a brand new slab of crushing metal is King of Asgard, a bunch of Swedish Hell-raising heathens. To those who already know this motley bunch, this is their third full length studio release, and to those who don’t, you may be able to guess by the band’s name what they are into…
Viking Metal is a rather useless term for a musical sub-genre, particularly as it refers to lyrical content more than an actual musical style. I could be gargling lyrics about Odin in the bath and claim it as some kind of Viking music. Anyway, for the purposes of this review, I shall dispense with the `Viking metal’ description, to give you a more accurate picture of what they sound like. I will however, say that King of Asgard do indeed like to sing about Viking-related themes.
Musically, they are an interesting and engaging mix of Swedish extreme metals, an alloy if you will. I would not go as far as to say that their sound is totally original, but it does have a unique blend of other influences that you will have heard before, all put to great effect.
There is definitely a large Swedish black/death metal influence here – some great, blistering and downright nasty riffs are on display, but always with that rather melodic and melancholic edge that some of the older greats always put to maximum use. I can hear the ice-cold, classical melodic minor overtones of Dissection ever so often, as well as the blackened musical theatricality of Necrophobic. Like both of those bands, King of Asgard have a great sense of the epic, the dramatic and the theatrical, which really adds extra dimensions to their music. The excellent production also really helps to bring this out; it’s a classic black/death production – crystal clear and yet crushing, dwelling mostly in the mid range but with more guts than a tripe factory.
There are also hints of other familiar Swedish influences – the musicianship is top-notch and every now and then, a faint whiff of Arch Enemy escapes from the album. A joyous, melodic riff here, a mid-paced section there… It doesn’t happen often but it’s there, I know it. Don’t be fooled by the grizzled Viking riffs as they maraud through your speakers trying to split your skull in two; King of Asgard have a great sense of the melodic.
The band manage to fuse melodic death metal and black/death with much aplomb, but there also a huge, lumpy folk metal element tying it all together. Less fast and melodic than Ensiferum, and less cheerful sounding than Manegarm, this adds a whole gobbet of hairy, pagan belligerence to the proceedings which is very satisfying on the ears, and seems to blend very well with the other styles in a way which is uniquely theirs. `Karg’ is crushing, aggressive, dramatic, evocative and eerie all at once, and is a real grower, and King of Asgard is definitely a name to watch out for, for lovers of all things extreme and Swedish.
(7.5/10 Jon Butlin)