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"Pagan Fire" (CD)

Amon Amarth - "Pagan Fire" CD cover image

"Pagan Fire" track listing:

1. Songs To The Hall Up High - Bathory
2. Isa - Enslaved
3. The Longships Are Coming - Unleashed
4. Victorious March - Amon Amarth
5. Winter Madness - Wintersun
6. Nedgang - Finntroll
7. Blut Im Auge - Equilibrium
8. Kylan Paassa - Moonsorrow
9. Empire Falls - Primordial
10. Inis Mona - Eluveitie
11. Tapporauta - Korpiklaani
12. Deathbringer From The Sky - Ensiferum
13. Laeknishendr - Falkenbach
14. Host - Thyrfing
15. Battle Metal - Turisas
16. Shackled To The Trilithon Of Kutulu - Bal-Sagoth

Reviewed by on March 26, 2008

"sure to curb any skeptics of model battle-axe wielding, fur shawl wearing, war-painted young men"

Trends in heavy metal are about as easy to predict as that one crazed guy who shows up at metal gigs trying to start fights. And yet our brethren to the north have grasped upon an inexplicable source of genre creativity which first burst forth in the 90s. Black, melodic-death, Viking and folk metal were born. Now claiming a firm place in the minds of metal heads, the influence of the all-too-serious Viking-metal sound has spread far and wide. Never one to fall behind, Nuclear Blast has seen fit to release a compilation of songs to properly educate the masses in the art of the north, which is to be supported by the full US tour Paganfest 2008.

"Pagan Fire" opens the only way a Viking-metal album could open, with the mighty voice of genre originator, definer, and Bathory mastermind Quorthon, in the form of... of a... a 2 minute interlude?! Right off the bat the greatest failure of this album is that from all of the classic, epic, awe-inspiring songs from 1990s "Hammerheart" they pick "Song to Hall Up High." Alright, that sin forgiven, it turns out Quorthon's humble croon makes for a pretty good intro to the Viking attack to come.

After Enslaved's classic song "Isa" from the album of the same name, Unleashed and Amon Amarth get the chance to show death metal is a genre not unaffected by Viking metal's genealogical allure. So far, so good, so onward march to Wintersun. Much like the way the intensity and gusto of Dragonforce would overshadow lesser bands in a power metal compilation, Wintersun's furious "Winter Madness" is easily a stand out track on "Pagan Fire." The melodic death/Viking infusion keeps a frantic pace of blinding rhythm and intricate leads that dares to ask the question: Children of who? Wintersun is undoubtedly a band deserving of recognition in a melodic death metal scene increasingly stagnant of ideas.

Some excellent folk metal makes a due appearance next with the ever popular "troll metal" band Finntroll and praised young German band Equilibrium. Primordial's new song, however, easily wipes the previous tracks from mind and is the flagship of the album to me. Front man Nemtheanga's powerful vocals and epic riffs are a notable injection of metal into the folk array and a great choice.

In respect to Primordial, the next few folk metal tracks fly by until Turisas arrives with their strikingly-catchy song "Battle Metal," and its anthemic nature is sure to curb any skeptics of model battle-axe wielding, fur shawl wearing, war-painted young men. Finally, "Pagan Fire" reaches its last track, which is one of the best. Extreme symphonic band Bal-Sagoth is a band ignored too long by the metal eye and this crazed track from their sixth full-length album is a great choice to rectify that.

It seemed Agalloch would be a sure in for this compilation, with one of their signature melancholic tracks, and black-metal influence was also at a bit of a low with the absence of any Windir, Huldrafolk, Ulver or Drudkh. But after some introspection, I begrudgingly admit there are only so many songs and genres you can cram onto an album, and getting bands on board is not an easy task. In short, with sixteen tracks and some true gems (if you're even slightly intrigued by the cold winds and colder steel of Viking metal) this is a great place to start your longboat journey to the north. Whether you call it Viking, folk, pagan, or epic, it has has claimed its place in the book of heavy metal.

Highs: A great range of bands which serves as a good introduction to the genre

Lows: Bathory was highly under utilized!

Bottom line: A good representation of the folk and Viking genres, a compilation that is for once far from a cheap cash in on rising popularity

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)