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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Månegarm

Fornaldarsagor

Review by Mike Korn

In Europe, heavy metal is looked upon as another way to connect to the past. There are tons of bands whose focus is paying tribute to the pagan cultures of old Europe, particularly the Vikings. The most well known of these Viking or pagan metal bands is Amon Amarth, but I would make the claim that Sweden’s Månegarm is musically more interesting and diverse.


Fornaldarsagor (no idea what that actually means) is an extremely heavy album that really has the feeling of an ancient battle march. It’s easy to imagine warriors of old charging into battle with this blaring on the speaker. Most of the tracks start with speed reminiscent of black metal but settle down into something more mid-paced. If you have trouble with foreign lyrics, steer well clear of this, because there’s not a word of English here. But I don’t think English would sound as good as old Swedish here.


It’s a bracing listen that’s thankfully different from a lot of American metal. If you were looking for a good place to start investigating the pagan metal tradition, Fornaldarsagor is it.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Sveablotet

With a scream and roar of fury, the battle is upon you! This opens with a fiery blast reminiscent of black metal, but there is a melody in the guitars that sounds like folk gone metal. The vocals are raw and gruff until there’s a cool  cleaner singalong chorus that has a very “Viking” sound.  The song has some very brief acoustic bits, but for the most part is a raging battering ram of aggressive metal that blends in the melody of ancient Scandinavia..

Hervors arv
This is another fast one that reminds me a bit of something the German pirate metal band Running Wild would do. The vocals are rough, but not in a death metal way. They really sound like a Viking singing. There’s a complex anthemic chorus, and the middle gets super heavy with slower, bulldozing chords that will get your head banging for sure. Some fiddle also appears to give a touch of folk, but this is a bracing fast metal tune.
Slaget vid Bravalla
The folky overtones are immediately obvious with this song, which opens with mid paced crunch before taking off into another fast, almost Celtic sounding rager. The vocals are rawer this time around, and this one gets really heavy and majestic. This is the best song yet...almost perfect Viking metal.
Ett Sista Farval
The “whoa oh-oh” singalongs and addition of accordion and fiddle make this the most folk-oriented song so far. It’s also the most melodic and features beautiful female vocals singing in ancient Swedish. Despite the folkish melody, this is still a metal song with heavy guitar. It’s just not as in your face as the previous tracks. There’s a wide variety of clean vocals used here and some death growls as well.
Spjutbadden
 This bruiser kicks off with some of the most catchy and crushing mid-paced riffing on the entire album. It really makes you feel like heading out and beating the hell out of some invading troll. The song works in some accordion to emphasize the power chords, and there’s a slower, mellower section that allows you to take a breather before the final assault. Again the band shows its talent for coming up with strong choruses in Viking mode.
Tvenne Drõmmar
The fastest track on the album, this comes across like traditional Norwegian black metal mixed with more of that Celtic Running Wild sound. This one will make your blood pump faster just listening to it. There’s time enough for some traditional folk instruments, but this is a 100-percent metal scorcher.
Krakes Sista Strid
The longest tune on the record, this covers a lot of ground. Again there’s a jaunty folk element that almost sounds like an old sea shanty, but the roaring guitars always keep the metal element high. The vocals mix clean and harsh to excellent effect, and both types are sung with a lot of passion. It’s a pagan metal epic with a vaguely sorrowful air to it.
Dõdskvädet
After an album full of lusty and full blooded pagan metal, this mournful folk ballad seems to be the necessary cool down. It’s a slow paced acoustic song with fiddle and female vocal accompaniment. There’s no metal, or even rock, here. This really sounds like something that could have come from the Dark Ages.
 
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