King of Asgard - To north 3.5/5

Reviewed: 3-1-13





Tracklist:

1. Onset of Ragnarok
2. The nine worlds burn
3. The dispossessed
4. Gap of Ginnungs
5. Bound to reunite
6. Nordvegr
7. Up on the mountain
8. Plague-ridden rebirth
9. Harvest (The end)
10. To north
11. Vinterskugge (bonus track)


King of Asgard’s debut took a lot of people by surprise, with half of the classic Mythotyn line-up suddenly bursting back onto the scene as if they’d never been away. Not that ‘Fi'mbulvintr’ was an exact duplicate of the style of Karl Beckman and Karsten Larsson’s old act, but the fact that it garnered such favourable reviews with the legacy of a big cult favourite hanging over it tells its own story.

‘To north’ has more expectation leaning on it and less of a surprise factor going in its favour, so it’s maybe no great shock that it doesn’t quite hit the same heights as the debut did, but it still makes for a powerful and well-executed follow-up.

One of the greatest strengths of ‘Fi'mbulvintr’ was the relative variety of style and tempo between the songs that made it flow surely and evenly throughout, and while ‘To north’ isn’t an endless trudge there are definite fewer breaks into outright galloping this time. That’s not exactly bad news though, as it is a relentlessly heavy CD, classic viking metal with no compromise in the brutality department.

Maybe the difference is that the debut was the summation of a few years worth of stockpiling songs, where this was more of a conscious effort to sit down and write a CD, but the music here feels more unified and pushing in a single direction. It’s a bit strange to be considering that a negative point, but sadly the more heroic, power metal-leaning style that enlivened some of the old songs has been largely excised here.

While it is a CD that works better when viewed as a single body of work – and the unremitting double-bass pounding helps this immensely – there are still some individual highlights to be enjoyed. The true opening song, “The nine worlds burn” is a snarling beast of a track, and the heaviness is nicely offset in the bridge when Helene Blad makes another guest appearance to reprise the heavenly, wordless melody that first appeared on “The last journey” on the debut CD.

Another guest musician threatens to steal the show on the doomy “Gap of Ginnungs”, with Falconer’s Jimmy Hedlund striking some light into the gloom with 2 ripping guitar solos that stand out a mile next to the less flashy lead work of Beckman and new guy Lars Tängmark, and is a big contributing factor to the song’s status as best of the bunch.

I don’t usually like to discuss the different editions of a new release, but in this case the digipak version is well worth a look, as the cover of the Isengard classic “Vinterskugge” is executed perfectly (with Beckman showing off some rare clean vocals in) and it dovetails perfectly onto the end of the CD.

‘To north’ may not distinguish itself quite as much as ‘Fi'mbulvintr’ did, but while it lacks some of the valiant inspiring melodies and is a small step down in overall quality compared to its predecessor, it remains a mighty fine helping of furious, uncomplicated viking metal.



CREAG




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