Rebellion - Miklagard: The history of the vikings volume ll 4/5

Reviewed: 5-18-07


1. Vi seglar mot Miklagard
2. Sweden
3. Free
4. On the edge of life
5. Ulfberth
6. The rus
7. Kiew
8. Aifur
9. Taste of steel
10. God of thunder
11. Our backs to the wind
12. Miklagard
13. The uprising

As most metal fans know, following the somewhat acrimonious parting of ways between Chris Boltendahl and Uwe Lulis in Grave Digger several years ago, Lulis assembled Rebellion, a Teutonic outfit treading much the same musical ground as the Diggers did on their celebrated 'Middle Ages' trilogy. In addition to featuring Lulis on guitar and ex-Grave Digger member Tomi Gottlich as bass guitarist and chief lyricist, Rebellion includes the formidable vocal talents of Michael Seifert (ex-Xiron, Black Destiny), whose Matt Barlow-influenced wails seem to grow stronger, more confident and more convincing with each passing year. After a couple of inconsistent CDs, Rebellion hit their stride in 2005, with the first installment of their 'The history of the vikings' concept cycle. 'Sagas of Iceland' was a superb achievement of German steel, offering a perfect marriage of heavy-duty German power metal with fascinating historically based lyrics. Needless to say, my expectations for 'Miklagard' ran sky-high.

'Miklagard' is another winner. This time, the setting of the narrative has shifted from Iceland to Sweden. Rather than writing about famous Vikings, kings and historical events of the period, Gottlich this time spins a tale of a commoner, a farmer's son from a small village in Sweden, whose yearning for adventure leads him to muster for a Viking ship. His ensuing adventures carry him south to Kiew past the fearsome Rus, all the way to the vaunted fortress of Miklagard. As usual, Gottlich does a superb job with the lyrics, expertly capturing feel and mood even as he peppers his narrative with odd proper names and historical events. As one of many examples, the imagery of our protagonist's first foray into battle, wielding his mighty Franconian sword Ulfberth, "whistling death" and "spinning like a wheel" as he deals death on the hapless Finns is particularly vivid and compelling.

Musically, this is classic Lulis, with many of the songs sounding like they could have been written during the sessions for 'Tunes of war' or 'Knights of the cross'. Stout-hearted, battle-ready, epic choruses abound, with Lulis and new axe partner Simone Wenzel (hailz to the long-overdue emergence of a worthy female guitarist in German power metal!) dishing out one top-quality riff after another. And Seifert continues to refine and hone his craft, to the point where I would now rank him among the best power metal vocalists in Germany, between his uncanny Barlow-esque mid-range delivery and his piercing upper-register that reminds of Joe Comeau in his Liege Lord days. Unlike Grave Digger on their last couple of outings, Rebellion remember the importance of speed in this kind of music, and the faster numbers ("Taste of steel", "Ulfberth", and "Our back to the wind") are fantastic. But even the more anthemic material like "Miklagard" and "On the edge of life" is well conceived and well executed, and there are very few lulls in the almost 61-minute running time. Special mention must also be made of the 110-second intro track, whose lyrics are entirely in Swedish and sung superbly by Charles Rytkonen of Morgana Lefay. Ordinarily I can't be bothered with intros, but this one is very nice, and is a great way to set the mood for the swashbuckling odyssey that awaits the listener.

Simply put, Rebellion have done us proud once again on 'Miklagard', a top-shelf example of German power metal at its finest circa 2007. As compared to 'Sagas of Iceland', 'Miklagard' is more consistent, but is perhaps lacking a true highlight like the awesome "Sons of the dragonslayer". Those who enjoyed Rebellion's previous works, or who worship at the altar of Lulis-era Grave Digger, owe it to themselves to check out 'Miklagard' without delay. For my part, I'll wait on pins and needles for the next chapter of 'The history of the vikings', which cannot come soon enough for my tastes.




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