Asgaard
XIII Voltum Lunae

My familiarity with Asgaard extends only back in time to 2001’s Ex Oriente Lux which I picked up on a whim, having never heard the band before. Before I get too deep into my opinions on the new disc, let me say I didn’t look to find their three previous recordings. Some background, then, is in order for all of us.

 This Polish band formed in 1994 as a doom gothic band. By their second release they were playing “sentimental doom gothic with folk elements.” A new vocalist in 1999 brought them a change in fortunes, and elevated them to a new plateau. Mournful mostly, intense often, aggressive when needed, even a hoarse whispering croak, revealed a truly tormented soul. Time to take them seriously now, firmly entrenched as “atmospheric dark metal” with a vocalist to rival King Diamond with Geoff Tate thrown in. Przemyslaw sings on his third album, XIII Voltum Lunae. As for why I never got their back catalogue, the vocals are amazing but it’s not really my style of music, usually.

 XIII is really a continuation of Ex Oriente Lux, but more energetic and a bit harsher overall. Production values are so close they could have been recorded at the same session. Writing this review has made me reevaluate my hasty rejection of this band a year ago. There is no doubt the vocals carry the rest of the instruments, but it is not true that with another singer this band would be nothing. A careful listen finds me listening more carefully, and even backing up from time to time to listen to a passage again. The keyboards and violin are often understated and dominated by the drumming, but, especially the violin, add significantly to the mood of the vocals. My favorite song is “Mare Nubium” simply for its diversity of moods, but any song on this disc will give you a complete image of this talented band. “Mare Serenitatis,” for example has the full range from harsh drumming to tranquil keys, and even a nod to Celtic Frost’s “Into The Crypts of Rays” near the end.

This was, from my vantage point, a difficult disc to get into, but well worth the effort. Fans of this style probably already know all about Asgaard and don’t need a new convert like me to tell you how gifted they are.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Grimulfr
September 25th, 2002

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