King Of Asgard
posted on 7/2012 By:
Even if you're not really the type to bury your head in all the various tomes dissecting all the varied sagas of Norse mythology, it ain't much of a stretch to think that a typical fan of metal ought to be able to stand behind themes centered around locking arms with your lineage and hammering foes through ale-soaked eyes. But apart from Old Scratch himself, I don't think there's been another motif that's been overplayed as much over the last decade (Viking metal from Brazil? Whaaa?), so it's no surprise that folks have quickly grown weary of flimsy imitators attempting the waters.
That's not to say there haven't been solid contributors of late, however. But if you're anything like me, unless a release is particularly striking, your Viking metal pangs in 2012 mostly end up sated the same way they were five years ago: with mid-era Bathory and a healthy handful of other releases from a chronic list of particularly effective Nordic wave-crashers.
In terms of Sweden's palpably monikered King of Asgard and their second foray, …to North, I'd say the offering is worthy of investigation if you count Amon Amarth's brand of straight-forward berserker metal as a steady part of your consumables. (Or the more obvious, yet no longer active Mithotyn, due to shared players.) And when I say straight-forward, I mean arrow-straight, folks; fans of lengthy narratives that blend in extended swashes of folky elements will have to trim their appetite, as these dudes have a considerably light dependence on such embroidery. Instead, the formula is very much 'on the level' with little emphasis on aggrandizing excess. The overall mood is aggressive without tripping into rabid; it's melodic without being unduly noodling; and it's catchy without crossing into full-on bawdy pub shanties. That's good news if you prefer the style sans schtick, but it also gives …to North a simplicity that could leave one feeling as if they've just sacked an already long-since-sacked village, if you catch my drift.
Still, there's a wealth of inspired riffing and enough wave-spray-to-the-face throughout this record to award it a positive rating. (Yes, gentle readers, a 7.5/10 is still positive.) The angrier lot of you will prefer heavier gallopers such as "The Nine Worlds Burn," "The Dispossessed," "Nordvegr" and "Plague-Ridden Rebirth," but I feel the band is truly at their best when the mood bends a bit darker and we're treated to a heavier reliance on melody. "Gap of Ginnungs," for example, or the brooding, acoustic-tinged "Up On the Mountain" that most closely recalls the Hammerheart/Twilight era of Quorthon. And by hell, the beautifully melodic manner in which the album closes with the instrumental self-titled cut really makes you hope that they'll allow that sweetly somber lead-play to hold an even more pivotal role for future endeavors.
Will King of Asgard stand as the sort of band you immediately dive toward to accompany your reading of The Long Ships while swilling a few Dunkelweizens? I guess that depends on how heavily you like your Viking metal embellished with progressive elements or various bells and whistles. As far as I'm concerned, the bottom line is this: …to North does indeed wander a fairly unadorned, well-traveled path, and it's not likely to leap ahead of my copies of Kivenkantaja or 1184 anytime soon, but it's an enjoyable ride nonetheless. Certainly something I can envision throwing into the mix when I'm jonesing for a return trip to the more punishing age of early Scandanavia.
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