King of Asgard - Fi'mbulvintr 4/5
3. Vamods tale
4. The last journey
5. Never will you know of flesh again
6. Wrath of the god
7. Snake tongue
8. Brethren of the north
9. Day of sorrow
10. Lingering a sacred ground
11. Heroes' brigade
12. Strike of the hammer
13. Fi'mbulvintr (outro)
Karl Beckman must find himself scratching his head sometimes at the way things work in his field of vocation. After several years hard slog with his first post-Mithotyn band, Infernal Vengeance, and only one demo compilation to show for it, he eventually wound the band up in 2008. Formed the same year, his new venture King of Asgard needed to release only one demo and not even assemble a full line-up before being snapped up by no less than Metal Blade for their proper debut, ‘Fi'mbulvintr’.
The demise of Infernal Vengeance was a shame as their 3 demo releases (2 of them handily bunched as ‘Dual mayhem’) were good fare, an interesting mix of viking and raucous traditional metal shenanigans, though it soon became clear the band were going nowhere and putting a cap on it has now been vindicated with this undoubtedly superior debut CD. King of Asgard share some similarities (most notably Beckman’s roaring vocals and unmistakable melodies), but the rocking antics have been shorn away to leave a traditional viking metal CD that recalls much of the glory of Mithotyn, delivering a hearty mix of scathing viciousness and spirited horde anthems.
In many ways, ‘Fi'mbulvintr’ is a throwback to simpler times, the rousing folk melodies engraved into the rampant rhythmic assault almost purely on lead guitar, with no further extravagances cluttering up the already dense rhythms. Karsten Karsson, who has spent the last decade with the ‘other’ Mithoyn guitarist in Falconer, has been recruited by his new label mates and seems to be revelling in his reunion both with Beckman and viking metal in general, beating the living hell out of his kit on the heavier material like he hasn’t done since the end of the 90s.
While the songs are all cut from very similar cloth, it is fair to say that Beckman has written a collection with enough diversity to stop it all becoming one long roar. For all the relentless intensity – it really barely lets up at all from start to finish – there is a good balance between power metal gallop and discordant blasting, with both interspersed by slowed down, highly melodic bridges where the old-timey melodies are really given opportunity to soar. The deciding factor of which way the songs tip often depends on whether or not the chorus sees the blasting drums speed up even more while Beckman screams his guts out, or whether things open up a little and a massive, heroic gang choir takes over.
The former, less overtly aggressive style probably edges it percentage-wise, not least on the staggering “The last journey”, which begins with a beautiful solo chant by Helene Blad (sister of Falconer’s Mathias and another old Mithotyn associate) which is swiftly replaced by a boisterous male choir and sets up the CD’s most inspirational battle hymn.
Generally speaking, you can pick which way the song will swing just going by the title. “Brethren of the north” is perhaps the most overtly upbeat, bearing a rather acute similarity to some of Ensiferum’s earlier, more power metallish songs, while the Unleashed-tastic title “Never will you know of flesh again” is a forewarning to the screaming extreme metal attack contained therein.
This black/death metal aggression can’t be understated, as while there is plenty in the way of stirring anthems, a more sensitive soul approaching in hope of finding another Falconer is going to come away with bleeding ears. The cascading guitars that come to a head on “Lingering a sacred ground” in particular will really satisfy those looking for some good old fashioned Scandinavian dissonance, and show that Beckman and co and still mix it with the best of them when it comes to the heavier stuff.
A near-perfect blend of the key components of a good viking metal CD, ‘Fi'mbulvintr’ is a welcome return after over a decade away from one of the style’s former leading lights. Old Mithotyn fans can rejoice, and newcomers can get in line too – Karl Beckman is back, and he’s breathing fire.
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