King Of Asgard
22nd July 2014 – Metal Blade Records
01.The Runes of Hel
04.Remnant of the Past
06.The Heritage Throne
09.Total Destruction (Bonus Track)
There seems to be a trend in metal lately to capitalise on the Viking worship which Amon Amarth made famous; that upbeat, melodic death metal sound with a mythologically Norse tone to the lyrics. Metal Blade Records seem to be trying to find the next one, and a ridiculous number of bands from all over the world have started using vaguely Norse themed lyrics in attempt to jump on the bandwagon, with fairly mixed results. Swedish band King of Asgard, make no effort to conceal their intent on their third full length album, Karg.
On the surface, Karg is pretty blatant Amon Amarth worship. Once you dig a bit deeper, however, you’ll find that Karg is actually a slightly more melodic black metal take on blatant Amon Amarth worship. So there’s obviously a huge difference.
In fairness, Karg does occasionally seem to borrow from Bathory’s school of thought – with more reliance on chords and moody atmosphere than riffs and growls – which means that it is not entirely derivative, at not of just one source. Quite honestly, the more atmospheric and black metal influences parts of the album are the best parts. When it does devolve into standard melodic death metal riffing with growled lyrics about Norse mythology over top, it gets boring fairly quickly. Songs like “Remnant of the Past” falls into that unfortunate category, but then there are songs such as “Omma” and “The Trickster” which are genuinely interesting and extremely well put-together.
It is almost frustrating to listen to an album like this, because it is clear that the band are capable of some really great music, but have instead chosen to waste their talent on writing mediocre clichéd Viking themed melodic death metal.
The use of acoustic guitars in some parts is a really nice touch, reinforcing the chord and generally adding an extra dimension of gravitas; something far too many of these bands seem to lack.
Production wise, Karg is actually fairly well done. One problem that some metal albums get is that they get far too compressed and end up sounding sterile; almost as much as pop albums. This is not always a problem, since some genres can actually benefit from such a clean production, but in this case, something a bit grittier really serves well. It is still clean enough that everything gets across well, and each instrument has a place in the mix without fighting each other, but it also has a slightly more primal feeling.
Karg is a mixed bag of an album. There are problems here with generic riffs and mediocre song writing, but they pull enough good things out of their sleeves to leave the listener wanting and expecting a lot more. It was mixed well, which is a plus, but that does not save the bad parts of this album, and neither do the interesting moments. The Amon Amarth/Viking worship really needs to stop. It is overdone, apologies to those bands who are seriously talking about your heritage, but everyone else has ruined it for you.
Best tracks: “Omma” “The Trickster” “The Heritage Throne”