Legions Of The North

Written by: MST on 19/08/2013 15:57:42

Sweden's pagan metallers Månegarm have been around for as long as all the big accomplished acts in the folk/pagan metal genres, yet they don't seem to have garnered as many fans as their peers. Granted, the pagan black metal the band played on their first few albums wasn't as accessible as that of, say, Finntroll, but as time has passed the Swedes have traded their extremity for catchy riffs and folky instruments, and the formula resulted in albums such as their excellent 2007 effort "Vargstenen". Since 2009's "Nattväsen" the band have been quiet in terms of new music, and Janne Liljekvist's (violin, cello, flutes) departure from the band in 2012 was probably a part of that silence. Now, Månegarm return with their seventh full-length opus, "Legions Of The North".

Fans of the band will immediately notice that this new album is the first with an English title. Previously, all album titles, song titles and lyrics were in Swedish, a trait that might have made the music less accessible but also made the band stand out from the crowd significantly. On "Legions Of The North", it seems like Månegarm intend to break out from the underground, and I'm not just saying that because of the English lyrics. The whole album feels more accessible; the band's black metal background only really pops up here and there in tracks like "Tor Hjälpe" and "Forged In Fire", and most of the tracks are simple, slower songs built around cleanly sung choruses that demand singing along. The folky instruments have received the same treatment, only really making prominent appearances once in a while. The result sounds more like "viking metal" than the pagan black metal of their past.

I'm sure this more accessible approach will be succesful, but I don't like it all that much myself. Don't get me wrong, I don't particularly mind the formula Månegarm use now; their last album, "Nattväsen", has been blasting through my headphones plenty during the last few years, but the increased accessibility that comes with "Legions Of The North" has naturally removed some ingredients, and these ingredients were important to me. This new albums feels less "genuine" than Månegarm's previous outings, at least to this fan of the band's whole discography. In addition, there's a huge negative factor I haven't even mentioned yet: the production on the vocals. Especially affecting vocalist Erik Grawsiö's screams, the production somehow makes the vocals sound flat and dry.

In the end, album closer "Raadh" sees the Swedish lyrics return with a female co-vocalist in an acoustic track reminiscent of what the band did on their acoustic EP, "Urminnes Hävd - The Forest Sessions". Still, endless amounts of listens haven't been able to win me over properly. Listening to "Legions Of The North" while writing this I can definitely nod along to most of the tracks, but very few of them stay with me after they've finished. Månegarm's seventh full-length is not bad, but while it may win over more fans with its accessibility, it's not going to get many points for its authenticity, at least from this writer.


Download: Legions Of The North, Tor Hjälpe, Forged in Fire
For The Fans Of: Thyrfing, Ensiferum, Amon Amarth
Listen: Youtube

Release date: 28.06.2013
Napalm Records

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