Written by: PP on 17/07/2007 20:24:01

Wow. It's been a while since I've been so positively surprised by a death metal influenced band as when I first opted to check out Månegarm's newest album "Vargstenen" (The Wolf Stone), a 53 minute opus focussed on the topic of the ancient Norse conception of the world. It's folk-metal at its very best, refreshing and enjoyable even for those not usually attracted to the death metal genres.

"Uppvaknande", or 'awakening' as the all-instrumental track is called in English, sets the mood with chilled out folk metal riffs that swing from high to low nicely, demanding the listener's head to follow. "Ur Själsig Död" is much faster and takes extensive use of the violin to emphasize the folk element in the midst of the fast riding metal riffs. What then follows is what also makes "Vargstenen" such a fantastic album: a sudden transition from the fast death-metal style into an atmospheric passage with quiet, balladic guitars and distant female vocals, which immediately puts more limelight on the ancient mood present all over the album. The passage is over almost as soon as it started, and the song reverts back to the swiftly swinging riffs and intrepid violins that it started with.

The vocals are harsh, but to call them growling would be a bit too much. Erik Grawsiö yells harshly but isn't afraid to use his soprano abilities either in the quiet passages. This adds much contrast to the album and is one of the many factors making it so interesting. "Den Gamle Talar" for instance is almost entirely acoustic, and paints pictures of ancient viking villages in your mind with its violin and calm male vocals. "Genom Världar Nio" is probably the heaviest track on the album - its beginning quite surprisingly resembles some of the material Red Warszawa has written during their career. This is only short lived though, because as soon as the violin starts dueling with the guitars we're back to folk-metal.

Much of the rest of the albums flows in the same manner, with plenty of quiet balladic passages contrasted by tight death metal. The folk element is present everywhere, effectively underlining the reason why Månegarm is widely considered to be one of the leaders of the viking metal scene. Like the promo sheet so aptly puts it: "if Thor, the God of Thunder owned an iPod, he would swing his mighty hammer to the tunes of "Vargstenen".


Download: En Fallen Fader, Ur Själsig Död, Genom Världar Nio
For the fans of: Ensiferum, Enslaved, Finntroll, Korpiklaani
Listen: Myspace

Release date 29.05.2007
Black Lodge
Provided by Target ApS

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