King of Asgard – ‘Fi’mbulvintr’, Metal Blade; 2010

From the name alone and with the added knowledge that they seem to fall under the now ubiquitous “viking metal” label; one would be forgiven for assuming that King of Asgard are a run-of-the-mill band, riding off the trail of popularity set off by Amon Amarth and their ilk. Thankfully, even though the organic production and harsh rasps with heavy metal brings to mind the earlier sound of the latter; that is where any comparisons between both sets of Swedes ends, along with any doubts about their quality and passion.

Fi’mbulvintr‘ marks not only the first LP from King of Asgard, but the recognition of chemistry between seasoned musicians who know what they’re doing and how it shall remain all their own. That the group boasts two members from Mithotyn within its trio doesn’t seem to hurt either; as elements of that now-defunct band’s music can be traced in intense yet melodic riffs and seamless flows between drum syncopation and blastbeats. The use of folk-song rhythms and norseman chanting may also be another of the influences from frontman Karl Beckmann and drummer Karsten Larsson’s joint credentials – yet they are kept within a framework that draws on extreme genres like thrash and traditional black metal, which altogether works well.

Lyrically, it seems that nothing new comes from the songs on ‘Fi’mbulvintr‘. What seems to have become typical fare in “viking metal” – Norse mythology, longship journeys, historical episodes (or romanticised versions at least) are all present here; not to mention the usual attack on Christianity’s arrival in Scandinavia. Though at the same time, it appears that each song is consistently written from a privatized view point. Beckmann’s vocal performance in ‘Heroes Brigade‘ is a fitting example of this – where most others might have made a much larger-than-life fanfare at the thought of an epic send-off to Valhalla, he instead shows a more fierce conviction of what awaits him.

Overall, this comes off as a fine debut record from three musicians who will hopefully release many more in what looks to be a promising career together as a band; even if it’s in a sub-genre which never seems to stop growing in output and size.

7/10

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