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King of Asgard - "Karg" (CD)

King of Asgard - "Karg" CD cover image

"Karg" track listing:

1. The Runes of Hel
2. The Trickster
3. Highland Rebellion
4. Remnant of the Past
5. Omma
6. The Heritage Throne
7. Huldran
8. Rising
9. Total Destruction (Bonus Track)

Reviewed by on July 25, 2014

"'Karg' contains plenty of sounds that animate millennium-old sagas and myths without an ensemble of woodsy instruments."

King of Asgard isn't a name that often comes up in conversations about folk metal bands. This is a shame because this band could go blow for blow with the mightiest of chainmailed groups. Part of their under-the-radar status might be due to only releasing two albums prior to the subject release, "Karg," even though core members played in Mithotyn way back in the early nineties. Part of it maybe due to the band's non-festive, meat-and-potatoes metal approach. "Karg" contains plenty of sounds that animate millennium-old sagas and myths without an ensemble of woodsy instruments.

The first distorted guitar chords on album opener "The Runes of Hel" initiate listeners with a sound that is pure Swedish death metal (think Necrophobic). Without the medieval riffs and clean vocals, "Karg" would be just a Swedish death metal album, a good one, though. At times, the group resembles one of Sweden's most popular death metal artists, Amon Amarth.

The first place this appears is once Karl Beckman harshly narrates "The Runes of Hel." He has a middle range voice that falls somewhere between a death metal growl and a black metal shriek. This and the way he emphasizes certain words with screams call to mind Johan Hegg. Amon Amarth fans should also check out the next track, "The Trickster." While the song begins in an epic, Viking-era Bathory fashion, the guitar fret play has a definite Amon Amarth/melodic death quality, albeit a much dirtier guitar sound than Amon Amarth. The melody on "Rising" isn't in the vein of Amon Amarth, but uses melo-death to put a new spin on an old theme: the funeral march.

Medieval riffs applied to heavily distorted electric guitar isn't exactly a new phenomenon, but for this writer, its a phenomenon that never gets old. In the case of "Karg," guitarists Karl Beckmann and Lars Tängmark possess a vast array of medieval-style riffs in their sonic armory. "Highland Rebellion" shows the two trade off riffs from the middle ages with fills from drummer Karsten Larsson. Later into the track, Larsson puts the pedal to the metal kicking away beats to a martial gong-like noise.

"The Heritage Throne" contains another ages-old rhythm, one that has been done by bands of this ilk, but the tones are so deep and gritty and its seamless transition make it sound fresh. I just don't grow tired of hearing these riffs. The medieval riffing isn't as conspicuous on "Remnant of the Past." It's there, just checked between the glorious clean vocal choirs and bass solos. Speaking of clean vocals, check out the meditative choirs on "Omma."

King of Asgard understands how to use variety, folk sounds, and bad ass riffs to create an engaging Viking metal album. The band doesn't harp on the same medieval riff, which keeps the album flowing. Fans of Amon Amarth, Unleashed, Bathory and Falkenbach take notice.

Highs: "Karg" is balanced in melodic death metal and folk.

Lows: Some of the medieval riffs have been used too often by other bands.

Bottom line: Bound to be one of the top folk metal albums of the year.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)