CD Review: “Fornaldarsagor” by Manegarm

Swedish metal trio Manegarm’s ninth release, Fornaldarsagor, is a meld of melodic folk metal and black metal. The opening track “Sveablotet,” commences with dissonant black metal riffing and several rhythm chances before slowing down during the palatial chorus. Guitarist Markus Ande steals the show with his ability to meld hellish tremolo picking with grandiose riffs. “Hervors arv” continues the fast paced tempo of the previous track. Bassist and vocalist Erik Grawsio’s harsh vocals sound like those of a viking fighting on a snowy battlefield. Manegarm’s folk influence is more prominent on this track, especially during the midsection. “Slaget vid Bravalla” is a ferocious track with drummer Jakob Hallegren’s unceasing double drums intermixed with slicing blast beats. The crushing chorus riff is underscored with gargantuan double drums. “Ett sista farva” is an anthemic folk metal ballad with tranquil guitars and soothing female vocals. The chorus is memorable and evokes images of vikings seated around a campfire singing of their victories. “Dodskvadet” is a serene folk song composed with stringed instruments and acoustic guitars. A fitting end to a heavy album.

Fornaldarsagor features eight tracks each with an average length of five minutes. However, the songs do not drag on as the tracks are both catchy and maintain a degree of complexity. The folks elements are not cheesy or insincere, which is evident on “Dodskvadet.” The folk instruments and Swedish lyrics grant a greater degree of authenticity on this record.

Manegarm did its ancestors proud with Fornaldarsagor. Fans of Amon Amarth, Amorphis and Heidevolk will enjoy this record with its heavy, yet catchy songs and folk elements. Long live the Viking Age.

Check out the band’s website:

http://www.manegarmsweden.com/

Top 10 Heavy Metal Albums Of 2016

We wrap up another year and it is time for the annual “best of” list for 2016 heavy metal releases. Old school thrash metal acts like Testament and Sodom released stellar albums this year. Symphonic metal band Delain’s newest record was a solid metal record with commercial appeal. 2016 will be remembered as the “Year of Death” due to the passing of so many celebrities this year. However, metal was alive and well this year.

Testament – The Brotherhood of the Snake

This lean and mean release is unapologetic thrash metal. Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson unleash a hailstorm of riffs and Chuck Billy’s vocals are as biting and vitriolic as ever. Brotherhood faced stiff competition from releases by Anthrax, Megadeth and Metallica, but this band managed to stand out.

Crowbar – The Serpent Only Lies

The return of original bassist Todd Strange certainly played a factor in Crowbar returning to its roots on Serpent. Frontman Kirk Windstein remarked in interviews the he listened the band’s older records for inspiration and it certainly shows on this album. Songs like the title track and “Surviving The Abyss” would easily fit on Odd Fellows Rest or the self-titled album.

Sodom – Decision Day

The teutontic trio had a stellar year with its 15th album. The band’s raw, ripping sound has not dulled after 35 years and it shows on tracks like “In Retribution,” “Caligula,” and “Blood Lions.” A head banging affair from start to finish.

Nails – You’ll Never Be One Of Us

California grindcore act Nails separate the strong from the weak with this release. Clocking in at 21 minutes, You’ll Never Be One Of Us pulls no punches musically or vocally. Napalm Death and Terrorizer made the path for extreme metal and Nails is laying pavement over it.

Delain – Moonbathers

There is a zeal of commercial appeal on Moonbathers, but the heaviness is still present. This record successfully fuses symphonic metal, pop and electronic and makes for an interesting listen. Charlotte Wessain’s angelic help drive the music, soaring like a bird over a stream of riffs.

Prong – X: No Absolutes

Prong maintains the creative renaissance it’s enjoyed since 2012’s Carved Into Stone. There are elements of hardcore, thrash, industrial and a little avant garde on No Absolutes, which made for a diverse album. Tommy Victor’s guitar playing is second to none on this record with the face ripping “Sense of Ease” and sludgy “Belief System.”

Amon Amarth – Jomsviking

Amon Amarth can do no wrong and it shows on Jomsviking. The tales of viking, raids, blood, and victory never get old and the music complements the subject matter. The band’s sound is consistent and still potent almost 25 years since the band’s formation in 1992.

Witchery – In His Infernal Majesty’s Service

The blackened-thrash supergroup return from a six year absence with this 11 track hellraiser, that puts the dead on the notice. Tracks like “Lavey-athan” “The Burning of Salem” and “Escape From Dunwich Valley” showcase the band’s uncanny ability to thrash and groove without issue.

Entombed A.D. – Dead Dawn

L.G. Petrov and company continue to explore to death n’ roll sound created by his previous band Entombed. The doom of “As The World Fell” neatly parallels the battering hardcore of “Total Death”. The band’s sophomore album is much more cohesive than its debut album and shows a very confident band.

Product of Hate – Buried in Violence

I have said this band is America’s answer to The Haunted. Buried in Violence is modern American thrash sans the retro vibe that saturated the American metal scene for several years. “Blood Coated Concrete” is an aggressive pit-inducing track that will satisfy metalheads old and new.

Live Review: Amon Amarth, Sabaton, Skeletonwitch at Iron City Oct. 26

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Review and photos by David Feltman

Presumably in a bid to win “World’s Longest Tour,” Amon Amarth actually began The Deceiver of the Gods tour in Europe back in July 2013 and it reached the US in January this year. In fact, Target Audience covered the tour when it came through Atlanta this past January with Enslaved. But Vikings, real Vikings, never stop. Now over a year in, and with a few changes to the supporting lineup, these Swedes are still pillaging the American countryside. Perhaps they’re still angry about that jerk Columbus stealing all the credit from Leif Eriksson.

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Skeletonwitch has been opening for Amon Amarth at every leg of its North American tour. And even now, with lead singer Chance Garnette absent due to unknown personal/medical reasons, the band is still forging onward as an instrumental group. True to form, Iron City, located in Birmingham, Ala., started the show exactly at 7:30 pm. Skeletonwitch started its set with people still filing into the venue and had packed it in 30 minutes later. This band is a pack of unflagging road warriors and it was a shame they were allotted such a small section of the show time. Luckily, Skeletonwitch never stops touring, so there will undoubtedly be future opportunities to catch its full show.

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The real star of the night was Sabaton, the newest addition to the tour. The Swedish power metal band’s penchant for history lessons and songs about epic battles made them a natural fit on the bill. Lead singer Joakim Broden even trotted out a song about Vikings so they could “fit in.” Though relatively unknown, Sabaton deserves to be a metal household name. The band had an amazing amount of energy that the audience gladly reciprocated, creating a cycle of good will between the two. The crowd matched every chant, clap and jump with thunderous enthusiasm.

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“We play 150 concerts around the world every year and it’s rare, very, very rare that we get such a welcome. Thank you,” said Broden, taken aback by the positive response.

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For the finale, the charismatic Broden pulled a kid in an Iron Maiden shirt and a leather biker cut, not older than 8-years-old, up on stage with the band. The kid posed and mugged throughout the last song, throwing up devil horns. Guitarists Chris Rorland and Thobbe Englund took turns letting him play guitar. As a veteran concert attendee, I can’t recall an opening act ever getting a call for an encore, or at least one as loud and sincere as the one Sabaton received. But, as a supporting act, the band was unable to comply because it was time for Amon Amarth.

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Amon Amarth filled the stage with smoke and epileptic tier colored strobe lights. The combination of smoke, flashing lights and large, long-haired men violently head banging occasionally reduced the visibility of the stage to brightly colored blurs and smudges. The visual assault subsided between songs while lead singer Johan Hegg joked with the audience and drank beer from a ram’s horn attached to his belt.

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The audience was properly warmed up from the Sabaton set and was eager to eat up as much metal as Amon Amarth was willing to dish out. The audience appeared to double in size as Iron City’s central floor was filled with leaping, crowd surfing vigor. Metal fans pumped their fists for the entire set like they were working shake weights.

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This is a great tour and Amon Amarth has definitely offered its fans plenty of chances to see them. But with the must-see-live Sabaton in the lineup, there has never been a better time to catch this show.