I will always admit when I don’t know shit about something, and today that something is viking metal. I understand that viking metal as a whole revolves around Norse mythology, as well as the overall history of the Scandinavian territories, and the only reason I know that is because every once in a while I will jam some Einherjar, newer Bathory, or Ensiferum, but besides those few bands I am rather ignorant of the sub-genre as a whole. Seeing as how I have been stepping out of my goresoaked comfort zone as of late, why not continue the trend with taking on King of Asgard‘s latest record, “…to North“?
“…to North” is one of those albums that I wanted to listen through several times just because of my unintentional lack of knowledge for viking metal, that way I can pick up on a lot of the little idiosyncrasies that I may otherwise miss, all because I want to make sure I can give you an accurate representation of what King of Asgard set out to accomplish. After such intensive listening sessions, I think I can fairly say that viking metal is just melodic death/black metal with folk elements that contain lyrical concepts dealing with… wait for it… vikings.
Obviously I am not here to argue about sub-genre labeling, but the band does a good job of letting newer listeners such as myself know what King of Asgard‘s interpretation of viking metal is to be. It is catchy, memorable, and is structured very well from top to bottom. I couldn’t help but get a feeling that bands such as Unleashed and Naglfar had a huge influence in their sound, with the former greatly influencing Karl Beckmann’s vocals, which is a good thing since they fit the music wonderfully. One aspect that I really loved about “…to North” was how there were epic power metal moments every once in a while, mainly in ‘Nordvegr’ and ‘Up On The Mountain’. I won’t divulge too much information as to what I mean by that, but it was a really nice contrast to the harsh-yet-soothing tones of the music in general.
While “…to North” is very enjoyable on its face, there are some problems with it that does effect its staying power. I understand that this should be an epic album that has a gradual rise and fall quality to it, but it is just too long for my tastes. The average song is 5:30 in length, and with 11 tracks (including the digipak bonus track ‘Vinterskugge’) you are given just about an hours worth of music. Normally this would be a good thing for an album that I am enjoying, but I just kept feeling myself nodding off during some songs, such as ‘The Dispossessed’, ‘Gap Of Ginnungs’, and ‘Harvest (The End)’. There is also a matter of Karsten Larsson’s drumming being rather anemic for most of “…to North“. At some parts I don’t believe this is directly his fault, as he is only playing to what the rest of the band gives him, but he shows off some interesting ideas in ‘Nordvegr’ and ‘Up On The Mountain’.
Despite those minor downfalls of “…to North“, I would have to say that King of Asgard has crafted an enjoyable viking metal album that will no doubt keep lovers of the sub-genre in that frame of mind. I also think that it is accessible enough for them to drag in some new fans, such as myself. It’s really as simple as that.