posted on 3/2010 By:
Varg, meaning wolf in both Swedish and Norwegian (it isn’t just the taken name of an infamous killer/musician), hail from neither country, but rather from Bavaria, Germany. This pagan/black metal unit recently signed to and subsequently had a falling out with Nuclear Blast Records, and have since looked to the much smaller Noise Art label to distribute their second album, Blutaar. While the source material is almost painfully obvious throughout, the music never ceases to be enjoyable, and at times is quite so.
Although Varg claim their sound to be firmly under the pagan and Viking metal banner, this is not an entirely accurate portrait, and is a minor disservice to their other influences. Just as prominent on Blutaar are nods to 90's melodic black metal and war-torn, epic melodic death metal. For example, the moment the Týr-meets-Ensiferum folk riff kicks off “Viel Feind Viel Ehr,” it appears that the listener is in for a bounce-fest worthy of battlefields, dancing minstrels, and beer halls. But this impression loses some validity as the next two tracks introduce more and more tremolo-riffed melodic black metal to the mix, complete with the types of dual guitar work not unfamiliar to Dissection loyalists.
By the time the title track comes around, Amon Amarth and Unleashed have also been unmasked as ingredients. Each song brings in various levels of these styles, sometimes to ludicrous levels (“Alter Feind” sounds lifted directly from Fate of Norns), but occasionally the mix yields great results. Such is the case in the album’s mid-point, “Seele,” a multi-layered and dynamic epic which maintains a high level of intensity and finality throughout, while also showing off the band’s penchant for well-written guitar harmonies.
The production, while nowhere near the “raw” side of the fence, is somewhat unrefined in comparison to what is often heard within the style (less than the usual 500 layers), and likely in comparison to what Nuclear Blast would have wanted. For the most part, this naturally thick sound aids the band’s sub-genre blend in sounding homogenous. Regardless of preference, the bass would certainly have benefitted from being bumped up a notch or two during the mixing stages.
Blutaar reaches neither brilliant heights nor dismal lows, but most of it is closer to the former. The key to truly achieving those heights will be for the band to take a few extra steps towards further fusing their various influences into their own sound. As they exist today, Varg are a quality addition to the pagan/black metal scene, and while not necessarily recommended to the stylistically uninitiated, they get an easy recommendation to fans who like to bring plastic swords to shows.
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