Ásmegin
Arv

Norwegian viking folk metal band Ásmegin has been in existence since 1998 yet Arv is just their second full length release. I have known of their existence for some eight years, ever since Marius tried to set up a multiple language interview between me and a band on his label. The positive that came out of that was getting to hear Naar Rimkalkene Heves. I have been a fan ever since, which makes what I am about to type rather difficult. Marius, next time you and your bandmates encounter an old huldre hag in need of assistance, give her some food, find her eye, marry her daughter, whatever it takes to get the magic back.

I got this promo in the mail with a disclaimer by someone who’s opinion I value, “major disappointment.” My initial reaction was sharing his disappointment as I had high hopes for this release. Because of  this on first listen I was pleasantly surprised. No longer having the burden of unreasonably high expectations I could listen and enjoy the darker edge and the more resolute compositions. The major problem is the departure of the vocalist from the debut, I miss the harsh black vocals. Overcoming lost members is never easy and this band has lost more than its share. Rather than try to equal the effectiveness of past vocal performances, the band has gone in a different direction, for which bands like Katatonia, My Dying Bride or Ulver are congratulated but for some reason Ásmegin is condemned for it.

The interplay between vocalists on the debut achieved a high dynamic level and a very energetic uneasiness. Think “Blodhevn”. This time time the different voices are fewer, more in tune with each other and less bombastic. None of which is bad, just no longer different, now they are much more in line with what you expect from every other folk metal band, so that leaves the melodies that jump out at you and stick to your brain like rancid peanut butter to the roof of your mouth, like on “Bruderov Paa Hægstadtun”, do we get that here? No. Musicianship is top notch, so the only complaint could be with the song compositions, excellent flow, great timing, once again nothing to stand out from the folk metal crowd, but none can say this is executed poorly, just not the Ásmegin we got last go round.

If you never heard Hin Vordende Sod & Sø ignore the naysayers and enjoy Arv, if you, like me, loved the debut, recognize the talent of these guys and cut them a break for doing something different and more ‘accessible.’ It is by no means their Cold Lake. “Yndifall” is heavy and harsh with death vocals, then a very quiet minimal calm sea kind of interlude, from which you would expect a direction shift to a very folk melody driven passage to bring you out but instead a very harsh death grunt then a bit more of the calm sea before the expected folk melodies finish it out, good boot stomping variety melodies. “Gengangeren” has key driven melodies mimicked on guitar and drums, revisited often. The keys play a large role as do the clean folk vocals. “Prunkende, Stolt I Jokumsol” is female vocals with no musical interference, though it does not match the haunting power of “Huldrandans – Hin Grønnkledde,” which always gets me looking for her cow’s tail. “En Myrmylne” is a long nine minutes, combining harsh vocals, a steady drum presence, and slowly moving key sequences. the song meanders along for many minutes and ultimately never satisfies, ending in a squirt of feedback.

In most cases when in the mood for Ásmegin I will spin Hin Vordende Sod & Sø, but Arv will get some airplay as well. “Slit Livets Baand” really highlights what is missing this time, the little flourishes, like on “Efterbyrden,” which always gives me the image of Kittelsen’s painting of a troll scrubbing his baby in a stream with a branch. Arv has yet to give me these mental images.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Grimulfr
January 13th, 2009

Comments

  1. Commented by: Erik Thomas

    I could not get into this at all-muddy guitars, lake of stellar songs and just an all around let down-ill give it another chance tho grim


  2. Commented by: LoftComplication

    I was really dissapointed with this. Hopefully their next album (hopefully not 5 years from now) will see them return to form.


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