In 2012, the Swedish viking death metal band, King of Asgard, released their album “To the North,” which featured one of my favorite songs of that year, “The Nine Worlds Burn.” I loved how the song whipped up things in a very furious style until the beautiful vocal gift of Heléne Blad calmly soothes the storm. Now after two short years and building off the strength of “To the North,” King of Asgard delivers “Karg,” which translates to “barren,” but after listening to the album, I found “Karg,” to be rich and full of life.
The album begins with ‘The Runes of Hel,’ and after doing some research in Norse mythology, I found that Hel is the daughter of Loki and sister to the wolf Fenir and the world serpent Jormungand. She’s an ugly half-dead hag, who has been banished by Odin to rule over Helheim, the underworld where the dead dwell. It is a wonderful opening track with strong vocals from Karl Beckmann and brawny blackened melodic riffs. “The Trickster,” which in Norse mythology is the nickname for Loki, is dominated by the addictive rhythm of a mid-tempo death metal gallop, and soon you’ll be wanting to grab your battle axe and swords and mount your steed to ride into battle.
‘Highland Rebellion’ slows the tempo down considerably, with a deep rooted hypnotic heavy guitar groove and Karsten Larsson‘s persistent double bass drum in the background. ‘Remnant of the Past’ shines the spotlight on Jonas Albrektsson‘s bass line throughout the song, while the guitars and drums just screech to a halt. ‘Omma’ is my favorite track on the album, and it has easily made my “Top Ten Songs of 2014” list. With delicate piano tones in the beginning, the song opens up to Lars Tängmark and Beckmann‘s hammering riffs and Larsson‘s bruising blast beats. But the main thing that helps ‘Omma’ sound so epic is the ominous haunting “Omma” chant, which gives me a shiver down my spine.
‘Huldran’ serves up razor-edged riffs, destructive blast beats and Beckmann‘s enraged growls. ‘Rising’ unleashes the pounding of war drums that will make your eardrums tremble, then a simple catchy dark and brooding melodic riff takes center stage that slowly rams onward growing bigger and bigger until it naturally fades away. “Karg” has one bonus song, a cover of Bathory‘s ‘Total Destruction.’ The production is smoothly polished compared to the original, but it still kicks ass.
With its blackened melodic sound, “Karg” is hands down one of the best albums I’ve experienced this year. It is an album I really connected to, and after every listen of “Karg,” “To the North,” and their 2008 debut album, “Fi’mbulvintr,” my admiration and respect for King of Asgard grows stronger.