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/

CD Review: “In His Infernal Majesty’s Service” by Witchery

Blackened thrash metal supergroup Witchery return after a six year absence with its sixth hellish offering, In His Infernal Majesty’s Service. “Lavey-athan” storms from the abyss like a demon ready to devour innocent souls. The track is full on thrash with chainsaw guitars and punkish drumming. The stomping midsection gives way to an eerie clean guitar and a whispered verse before ending on a heavy note. The chaotic “Netherworld Emperor” is a pugilistic track that strikes from all angles. New drummer Chris Barkensjo showcases his skills here as the track has several time changes but maintains a consistent groove. “Nosferatu” is the initial single and one can see why with its galloping riffs and frontman Angus Norder’s shrieking vocals. The band’s black metal roots show on this track with its dissonant riffs and the atonal guitar lead. Things speed up on “The Burning of Salem” which recalls early Slayer. The suffocating riffs sound like a fiery whirlwind while the drums manage to keep up. The apex of the song is during the middle when we hear a man identifying himself as Salem’s magistrate sentence several defendants to death by hanging. History certainly comes alive on this track. A haunting organ opens up “Escape From Dunwich Valley”which grooves from start to finish. Guitarists Jensen and Rikard Rimfalt put their stamps on this track, as this track as a major Black Sabbath vibe.

 In His Infernal Majesty’s Service main strength is the diverse songwriting. The band draws from death, black, death and even doom metal to forge some unpredictable but dynamic songs. Witchery refuses to play within any parameters, but can play in the pocket when necessary as seen on “Escape From Dunwich Valley.” Musically, the band members all hail from some of metal’s most revered bands. Bassist Sharlee D’Angelo plays in Arch Enemy, guitarist Jensen plays in The Haunted and lead guitarist Rikard Rimfalt played in Seance. These guys can play melodic metal or straight thrash at the drop of a coin. We see this throughout Majesty and it gives the record an extra kick.

The six year absence certainly has not dulled Witchery. In His Infernal Majesty’s Service would please the Dark One as only Witchery can do. It is pure blasphemous heavy metal that rarely lets up. Fans of the band member’s main bands should pick this up as should fans of extreme metal. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and this is the soundtrack for the journey.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s official Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/officialwitchery/

CD Review: “Maximalism” by AMARANTHE

Electronica meets death metal on AMARANTHE’s fourth record, Maximalism. The first half of Maximalism is accessible metal with poppy hooks and choruses. The initial track “Maximize” opens with a driving techno beat followed by choppy riffs. The party continues on “Boomerang” which is an interesting mix or hip-hop, metal and techno. The guttural vocals complement frontwoman Elize Ryd’s clean singing on the chorus. Things get heavier on the second half of the album on songs like “Fury.” The thrashing riffs take precedent of over the electronic beat and causes severe headbanging. AMARANTHE shows its metalcore influence on “Faster” which melds breakdowns with house music. It works well and definitely gets one’s head bobbing. Album closer “Endlessly” is an epic metal ballad with strings and soaring, heartfelt vocals.

Bands have combined metal with dance elements for roughly 15 years now, so it is not a novel idea. However, AMARANTHE is one of the few bands that can pull it off while retaining a degree of heaviness. This stands in sharp contrast to more commercial bands that throw a few nu-metal riffs together and then overly rely on electronic samples. The Swedish sextet strikes a balance on Maximalism, allowing the band to play fast and technical but also expanding on its sound. This production on this record is clean and special attention is given to the percussion.

Maximalism is a solid record and will satisfy fans of electronica influenced death metal. There is no doubt fans of traditional death metal will deride this record for its accessibility and techno samples. However, they would probably avoid this record in the first place. Fans of Within Temptation, Epica and Evanescence should check this record out. It is definitely metal with a groove.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s website: http://amaranthe.se/

CD Review: ‘Shadow Realms’ by Firespawn

There is nothing like a Swedish death metal supergroup to shake things up. Firespawn is comprised of vocalist L.G. Petrov (Entombed A.D.), guitarist Victor Brandt (Entombed A.D.), bassist Alex Impaler (Necrophobic), guitarist Fredrik Folkare (Unleashed, Necrophobic) and drummer Matte Modin (Raised Fist, ex-Dark Funeral). Firespawn’s debut, Shadow Realms, takes elements from the aforementioned bands and the results are solid. The record’s sound is hard to pin down because the band draws from numerous influences. “The Emperor” melds blast beats with a churning groove below Petrov’s infamous guttural vocals. There is a carefree attitude to the song, in the sense that the band does not constrict itself. This attitude carries throughout the album. The debut single “Lucifer Has Spoken” is dark and sinister with its dissonant melody and pounding drums. “Spirit of the Black Tide” rips like a tornado through a sleepy village. The twisting guitar riffs and galloping drums are relentless from beginning to end. The anthemic “All Hail” walks the thin line between seriousness and silliness. That humorous ambiguity abruptly ends on “Ruination” which is a thrasher. The band even goes djent on “Necromance” further solidifying its refusal to follow the rules. There is no genre in extreme metal this band will not touch.

The band’s carefree and open-minded attitude makes Shadow Realms work. There is no influence that overshadows (couldn’t help it) the other. Some of the songs are technical, brutal knockouts. While other songs are more restrained and simplied. Thus, Firespawn bucks the trend is playing within the parameters of a particular sub-genre. Petrov’s vocal style is guttural but decipherable, which is another strength to the album. Today’s death metal scene is oversaturated with vocalists that would rather grunt and screech as opposed to sing. The music on Shadow Realms is more disturbing and genuine because you can hear from Petrov is saying.

Overall, Shadow Realms is a great debut record. The guys went in with no hang-ups and cranked out a solid metal album. If you enjoy extreme metal, this record is for you.

For news on Firespawn, check out the band’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/firespawnofficial/