Varg is a German Viking Metal band which takes its name from the Norwegian for “wolf”. They’ve been around since 2005, releasing their first record, “Donareiche” in 2006 and a further four full-length albums since then. Suitably resplendent in black and red face and body paint, their particular take on this genre will please anyone with a liking for Minas Morgul or Iskald.
For anyone less familiar with this form of metal let me describe the elements that come together in Varg’s music: the vocals are of the more extreme, black-metal type while the instruments deliver heavy riffs, double kick drumming, with some martial and folk-inspired guitar parts. Most striking – to my ears at least – are the kind of folk underpinnings that root this music squarely in the older European musical traditions (it’s still heavy, but there’s a timeless feel to it). This being the case there are moments when major keys make an appearance, a surprising and welcome addition to the overall sound.
Song titles provide some clue to the thinking behind them, and while I’m not a German speaker I can offer some translations – ‘Blut und Feuer’ (Blood and Fire), ‘Angriff’ (Attack), ‘Wieder Mal Verloren’ (Lost Again) and ‘Gedanke und Erinnerung’ (Thought and Memory). The songs themselves fall into the three and a half to five minute bracket, 13 shortish, sharp musical shocks which all fairly rattle along.
The aforementioned ‘Blut und Feuer’ is a bit of a standout track with a good riff and melodic guitar line. It’s one of the album’s faster songs and showcases Varg very well. ‘Angriff’ has one of the more folk-inspired guitar parts that contrasts well with the extreme vocal style. Halfway through, the riff becomes something much more traditionally ‘metal’.
With ‘Wieder mal Verloren’ Varg do something a little more unusual, picking up speed again and adding a major key guitar theme that could have come from an indie band. Clearly it’s done with more panache and a good dose of heaviness, but it arrives as a euphoric anthem of a song that gets the feet tapping and the head nodding.
As a piece, “Guten Tag” is a good, solid metal album with some useful twists that keep it interesting, all delivered with commitment, intensity and energy. The elements that make it of the “Viking” variety mean it will be different enough to the other metal in your collection (fellow Viking metal bands aside) to more than justify its inclusion. Give it a listen and get some blut und feuer in your life.