Mjolby’s (Sweden) very own “King of Asgard” finally return, following their last album, 2014’s “Karg”. I was an admirer of their first couple of albums, but with “Karg”, I found that somehow the music wasn’t “clicking” with me as much as they had in the past. Thus it was that I put :TAUDR: on the stereo-graphic amusement machine with a slight sense of trepidation.

As it turns out, I needn’t have been worried though, as although :TAUDR: sees the band travelling in some slight different musical directions than before, they’ve also returned to form. I’m absolutely delighted that there are more folk elements brought to the fore here, and not just in the shape of some “hey nonny nonsense” that lesser folk bands bring, with twee melodies and the like. In fact, :TAUDR: might just be the most melancholic sounding Viking / folk album that I’ve heard. At their heart, King of Asgard are a bloody good melodic death metal band with some black metal minor elements, and that remains to the core on raging tracks like “Death…And a New Sun”. However, the chanted vocals, the traditional instruments used sparingly but effectively shine through. This, ladies and gentlemen, is an album for the angry Viking. Shockingly, that last sentence isn’t yet the punchline for a joke. Feel free to add your own to the comments section.

:TAUGR: sees a different line up, with new personnel added to drums and guitar (Mathias Westman and Ted Sjulmark, respectively), joining with long standing bassist Jonas Albrektsson and founding guitarist and vocalist Karl Beckmann. Certainly, I wonder if this change of line-up has meant that King of Asgard have felt more free to explore their more progressive side. Although this is a short album in terms of title numbers (there are but five songs, though each weighs in at over six minutes, except for the closing track), it’s definitely not one that is short of ideas. With some neat passing nods to giants of the Viking metal genre such as the legendary Bathory and Einherjer, :TAUDR: isn’t a work that’s afraid to have ambitious song structures. The title track, for instance, is a rambling, epic number that rewards many repeated listens. There is a dark folkloric attitude that is soaked through the album, a dun and gloomy atmosphere that sits heavy, pierced only occasionally like the few rays of sun that manage to penetrate an old forest. Tempo and time are played with on this release; from the raging death metal sections through to the more considered moments, such as the almost improbably sad sounding introduction to “…For the Fury of the Norse”.

Production wise, this hits the nail right on the head, and anyone who has worried what a move from Metal Blade might mean for the band should not have worried. This is an album that sees the band embrace the “Viking” in their sound more than ever before, perhaps. :TAUDR: sees a band daring to expand, and for a line-up that has only just become established, this is confident and inspiring stuff. Don’t let the small number of songs on offer put you off, as this is a really fine release.

(8/10 Chris Davison)