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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Månegarm maul the senses on self-titled release

AHH Vikings - much maligned in history, a loose term applied to farmers and fishermen who had a land grab policy throughout western Europe and beyond.

But, in musical terms there is a rich tapestry of various shades of 'Viking' metal, ranging from those with an eye firmly on the folk side of the equation to the high concept black metal variants.

But Månegarm take the tapestry and incorporate it into a varied album that marks 20 years in the business of making noise from the northlands.

Nothing better exemplifies the variety than the two openers - 'Blodorn' and 'Tagen av Daga' - heavy but using well placed melody to offset Erik Grawsiö's growls, and deploying instruments other than guitars and bass to make for a rich sound and well placed interludes.

Varying between their own tongue and English is a little jarring on first listen, but becomes more logical on repeated listens - and after all the nomadic Vikings of the middle ages would have had to be well versed in a number of languages as testified by place names throughout the British Isles with Viking roots.

'Odin Owns Ye All' is a delightful wee metal romp at full throttle, contrasting well with the folk styling of 'Blot'.

But it is the unadulterated metal of the likes of 'Call of the Runes' that will keep most listeners riveted as Grawsiö roars and rumbles in total majesty, much like the wolf from Norse legend that their name is derived from. (A wolf moon adorns the cover of this release.) Like many of the songs '...Runes' has an arrangement that prevents it from becoming one-dimensional.

The lyrical theme may seem a little 'silly' to some who pretend to sophistication, but before criticizing it is worth remembering that much of Månegarm's output - like other bands of their ilk - is based on the legends, mythos and history of the nations of Scandanavia.

Does that make it all the more credible? It does in a way that big screen action movies about Norse Gods never will.

And, if you were to take a song such as 'Nattram' you may not get the whole sense of being a warrior upon the seas, but you do get a sense of the 'epic' that surely echoes the experiences of those on a lonely boat heading off to discover new lands on a rolling sea, all the while praying to Thor to ease the tempest...

Do we need another Viking metal album? Who cares, because Månegarm have produced a cracker.  Hail the All-Father!

Månegarm is out now on Napalm Records

Review by Jonny

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