Label: Trollmusic Band: King of Asgard Origin: Sweden
If Unleashed hadn’t become the beer-guzzling cliché that it unfortunately is and had stuck to their guns, they might have become King of Asgard. I’m very aware that this is a risky thing to say because to put them in one sentence is bound to be controversial. Musically, the Swedes appear to be difficult to place. Angry Metal Guy puts them in the folky black metal corner, while Metal Temple throws them in the bucket of melodic death metal. Being the much less genre-oriented typing metal fan that I am, I’ll just leave it at this; King of Asgard has a bit of both but is mostly Viking metal.
King of Asgard revolves around Karl Beckman, who has stayed firmly on the trajectory he started on with Mithotyn. This band is slightly different in being more dark and brooding. ‘Taudr’ is the fifth album by the band, which also has featured Jonas Albrektsson since 2009 (from Thy Primordial and Retaliation a.o.). Albrektsson is arguably more of a black metal guy, hence the sound on this record. Everything about this record just oozes northern folklore and the grim realities of that realm.
So even though I don’t wish to admit it, for me the great appeal of this album is definitely the black metal atmosphere blended with folk. Not in the blended way, where it all ends up being a drinking horn raising bacchanal. No, both aspects do their respective job in turn or distinctly separate. ‘The Curse and the Wanderer’ immediately jumps into the fray with vigor and battle lust. Notable instantly are the drums, that definitely keep the hard and solid bottom in the songs. Even when the chanting parts pass by, the skins keep it together. Sharp, tightly mixed guitars drive the song forward, without ever doing more than needed.
The hurdy-gurdy on ‘Death …and a New Sun’ is exactly where it needs to be. It offers the droning center that you stick with for the whole song. Rigid riffing and a continuous, monotonous sound tell a story in itself. It also makes the song extremely heavy. But I’d like to talk about the title track because the dynamic intro is already exciting foreplay to the grandeur of this song. There’s a majesty to the sound here, thanks to an again excellently produced bit of string magic. It leans towards folk metal, without ever crossing the border to fun and silly-land. The harsh bark of Beckman really shouts you into submission. Man your oars and row, you scabs! Excellent drumming on this track again.
A climactic point on the album is ‘…For the Fury of the Norse’. To me, this track crosses some lines in its grand finale moment, but it is entirely fitting on its spot in the album. The soaring guitars and slow pace are a bit too Marvel Thor for me. Still, it’s rather enjoyable and on a more critical level, I can’t find any fault in it. Closing the album is Mithotyn cover ‘Upon Raging Waves’. A cover is always tricky, particularly of a band with a distinct sound. Beckmann obviously understands his own song well enough to shape it to the sound and feel of King of Asgard. It might be the best song on this album.
King of Asgard is not breaking new ground because they do what they do excellently. A true gem in current day metal, particularly for those who need no novelties in their heavy sound.
I’m truly excited to bring you an interview with a pagan-metal band from far-off Venezuela, namely Odosha or Odo’sha as it is originally written. The interview was kindly published by Echoes & Dust.
Metal is a global phenomenon, and I cannot stress enough how significant that becomes when you start looking into the more extreme genres in places that are less likely. South-America has in general a violent and intense extreme metal scene, of which most of us only see the tip with bands like Sepultura, Soulfly and maybe some Krisiun and Sacrofago.
In Venezuela the metal scene is much localized, but very aware of the outside world it appears. I found, in talking to the black metal band Odo’sha, that there are remarkable things that a band from a Latin America can derive from the Nordic fury that is the second wave of black metal. If any part of the world can boast of repression and washing away their history, it must be there.
And that is the surprising link and why it completely makes sense that black metal can be so much more than a European thing. Second guitarist Marco Leon was keen to answer some questions and was fortunately quite elaborate in providing information about extreme metal in Venezuela.
Can you introduce yourselves and maybe say a bit how you each got into metal music, if you played in other bands and such? First of all, thank you for the interest and support for our musical work. Odo’sha currently consists of Irwin Hernandez on bass, Yonht Figueroa on lead guitar, Marco Leon on second guitar and vocals and Juan Delgado on drums. We all come from bands with different styles. Irwin Hernandez and I (Marco Leon) are founding members of the band, Yonht Figueroa is also playing guitar in a thrash metal band named NWD. Juan Delgado, the newest member of our band, is involved in a death metal project, named Initium Vortex.
How did Odo’sha get started as a band? (is it Odosha or Odo’sha) What does the name mean, both literal and symbolical? It has a double meaning, has it not? Odosha was created as a band in 2005, with Irwin Hernandez and Marco Leon as founding members The initial idea was to create a band with influences like Bathory, Burzum, Necromantia, Dissection, Emperor and such. These were the black metal bands we listened to in those days. We also were inclined to bands like Moonsorrow and Windir, who had a more melodic sound to them, but from the start we wanted to make our identity about our geographical area. Away from the European styles and copying those, we wanted a sound that was from South-America. This is how we started out and adapted our musical influences and lyrics to the context of our indigenous cultures of our region.
We’ve taken all those beliefs and stories our ancestors held before the Spanish arrived. The band name is taken from the mythology of the indigenous ethnicity of our region. ‘Odosha’ according to its mythology is the protector of the great mountains of the south of our country, but also the god who thought man the art of war and hunting. It’s an evil deity, but not a necessary one. Originally it is Odo’sha, as it appears in our logo, but for easy writing Odosha can be used.
What is the theme or story you are telling as a band? According to Metal Archives your themes are South American primitive cultures and Paganism. I’m very curious what that actually contains for a band from Venezuela and how you bring it into you work? Well, when we started with Odosha there was nothing like what we wanted to do in Venezuela. Extreme metal bands with indigenous themed lyrics or who represented an ancestral heritage of our part of the world was pretty much unknown. Obviously as musicians we were influenced by the big bands in the scene, which were mostly European bands, but we always kept in mind that their lyrics are from their history and based on their roots.
For us it felt unnatural and even disrespectful to simply copy their styles and pretend we came from the same geographical or historical reality. Our approach has been from the beginning to take all that magnificent musical influence of all those bands and adapt it to our reality and context. This is how we became the first black metal band from Venezuela, who based all their lyrics on ancient cultures of our continent.
Here, as elsewhere and everywhere in the world, is an incredible cultural heritage full of stories of warriors, struggles and ancestral beliefs, mythology and paganism. That is the basis for our lyrics and the essence of Odosha and we are proud to open that way for many more bands with this idea. Many bands in Venezuela now reflect their regional identity in their lyrics,
Can you take us a bit more in debt on those themes? Well, all of our lyrics focus on aspects of the South American pre-Hispanic cultures, before the arrival of the Conquistadores. There were so many peoples living here before they came, who lived a total pagan way of life in communion and harmony with the elements. They worshipped the sun, moon, rain and thunder. Nature as a whole was very significant in their lives, it was full of superior beings to whom they paid tribute in ceremonies that were transmitted from generation to generation. They built miraculous monuments to those Gods in the forests in honour of them.
They were not benevolent or specifically kind, but they deserved respect and took their places in the balance of the universe. With the arrival of the Spanish a series of massacres started, the colonization was a process which enforced the Catholic Church with blood and death to worship one God that no one knew. The indigenous people fought fiercely, fighting big battles through obvious disadvantages across the continent. It is told in one of our songs, ‘Cultura pagana(Pagan culture)’ says:
The blood of our ancestors was cruelly shed Our gods were humiliated and defiled our land The strength of the cross was imposed, and temples to an unknown god rose
The brutal colonization deleted a cultural legacy and we walked away from our roots. We are not Catholic by choice, but by submission. So our lyrics are imbued with these stories, battles and rituals, with beliefs and paganism and the worship of the elements and the natural world. We take this cultural legacy and put it in our songs, which is the basis for our lyrical ideology.
Many black metal bands are trying to convey a vision of sorts, a view on the world or lesson. What is that for Odo’sha? Everyone should take their own position and accept the consequences of their words and deeds. We are not false prophets or preachers trying to impose our vision of what the world should be like. We are metalheads and musicians and that is our philosophy of life. Odosha is an extreme metal band and our purpose as a band is to transmit through a strong and aggressive sound our cultural heritage, which we believe has been underestimated and neglected.
Are you currently working on something and can you tell a bit about it? Sure, we are currently working on what will be our next studio album, which will hopefully contain 8 to 9 tracks. It should be out before the end of this year. A couple of months ago we released two songs a s a preview: ‘Solstice Ritual’ and ‘El Dorado’, both can be checked out on YouTube, to get an idea of what’s coming.
What are your main influences, both musical as non-musical, to make the music you make? It’s a bit difficult to define our musical influences, every band member has their own tastes. Those range from the black metal of the 90s to thrash and death from that period. Even folk and viking metal are a part of that influence. Beyond our music, the identity as South-American metal heads, with all the complications and difficulties of doing this kind of music in our part of the world.
What is a live performance by Odo’sha like? In the early days of the band we used war paint, but now it’s more focussed on the music. That what is heard live has to be as close as possible to the studio sound for us. So what you can expect is a presentation of Odo’Sha as an extreme, strong sounding metal band with energy discharging with every song. We are a metal band and as such we want to transmit the aggression of the genre in our presentation. We also often play covers of bands that have been very influential for us as Bathory, Emperor, Dissection or the old Samael.
Do you consider the metal scene in Venezuela locally orientated or more outwards? Do you get many bands playing in your country from abroad? Venezuela is currently going through a very difficult political and economic situation, the “bolivar” our national currency is in constant devaluation and free fall against the dollar, for that reason
Performances of foreign bands in our country have disappeared almost completely. There were better times, in which Venezuela would be a spot for touring bands to play, but this no longer happens. The situation for national bands and the projection to other countries is similar because of the unstable economic situation. Local bands are not able to open doors to other countries, there are virtually no labels or producers specialized in metal music in our country so everything is pretty much do-it-yourself. Some bands have managed to get their music to other places, but the presence of Venezuelan bands abroad is unfortunately something far removed from reality these days. Beyond the bordering countries like Colombia, it is almost impossible to play abroad.
When speaking of metal from South-America, it often focusses on Brazil. Can you say a bit about how the metal scene in Venezuela started, developed and grew into what it is now and what bands were major influencers? Certainly Brazil is the home of great bands in our part of the world, like Sacrofago, Sepultura and others. The history of metal in Venezuela is very diverse in terms of bands and periods. In the 80’s it was mostly heavy rock with bands like Resistencia, GrandBie and Arkangel. Thrash started as well with a band called SS. It was a period that paved the way for the metal scene that would harden with the passing of years and had this higher moment with extreme music in the 90s with bands like Bahometh, Noxius, Natastor, Krueger and many others. There is now a big and varied movement in Venezuela with great bands in many different styles like thrash, death, black, heavy or any other.
What is the current scene like in your country? Are there record stores, venues, clubs and such? The local scenes are quite underground, there’s no big stores, only small distributors in different parts of the country. There are not many places that are dedicated exclusively to metal. Concerts usually take place by renting places that have nothing to do with metal music. In the main cities of the country, you’ll find one or two pubs, but metal head pubs are very scarce. Play or listen to this music in these regions is always tricky, it has not reached the point where it’s respected and supported as an art form. These are lands with tropical rhythms and also with a very outdated mentality, where metal does not own any space.
As a metal head do you face forms of censorship or not being accepted in Venezuela society? As far as I gathered your country has a strong religious practise going on and some strong set values. Does that show in the metal scene? Yes, that is correct. Venezuela is a predominantly Catholic country and extremely conservative. Metal is seen as an aggressor that violates the values and traditions of the region. The scene is growing though and getting stronger in a significant way. Those who listen to or played metal in this country for real are willing to go against the outdated and obsolete system in which we live.
Fortunately there are a lot of young people that are breaking taboos and opening their minds to a globalized and intelligent world, who start regarding Catholicism as a major obstacle to free thought and integral human development. We hope that at some point these walls of ignorance will be torn down.
What current bands do you recommend for people to check out?There are a lot of bands here, I personally prefer to let everyone judge for themselves. Pick one and listen, I assure you that you will get very good stuff.
To mention some, Funebria is an excellent band that plays blackened death. Noctis Imperium is another black metal band that has been around for years. Natastor is a thrash band with many years in the scene behind them and Hereja plays a brutal form of dark black metal.
That’s jus to name a few. If you ask others, I’m sure you’ll get some different replies.
Do you think there is something typical about metal from Venezuela? Could you describe it? Well, I am not sure. Maybe someone from outside the scene could spot something like that from an objective opinion. I think metal is a language that knows no boundaries. You can have a playlist with German, Dutch, Greek and even Venezuelan bands and all of them make you bang your head without even speaking their language, that’s the essence of metal.
Please use the space here to share anything you’d like to add. First of all, thank you for the opportunity to present our work. We hope this will be a door for many maniac metal heads to meet Odosha! We invite you all to check our stuff out on Youtube or on the Facebook page of the band.
You can also check out our page on Metal Archives. We’ll keep in touch, soon there will be new material from the band. Greetings and raise your horns up!
New roars from that good old underground with Mgła, Perturbator, GosT and Heidenland. Black metal and synthwave for greater glory. Check it out!
Mgła – Excersises in Futility
The mighty Mgła from Poland has a new release out, which lasts a good 42 minutes. The abum is already number three for the band, who have a sound that is pretty impressive and reminds me a bit of a more blackened Behemoth (who, let’s be honest, have shifted to a more death sound). That makes this band sound strangely much like an orthodox band, creating very pure, beat driven black metal that is kinda mid paced for most of the tracks. Sure, then you get the blastbeats pounding and running amok, which gives it more of a full frontal attack vibe, but it never drags the rest of the sound with it.
The title of the album says a lot about the lyrical content and the general feel the album gives. There’s no veiled, atmospheric mysticism here. No grander scheme of things or deep meanings hidden behind it all. There’s just this and the bleak guitars o Mgła. There’s a certain compactness in that sense to the sound of the band, which allignes with the brevity of it all. Nothing more needs to be said, this is it brother. We live and then we die. Amen.
GosT – Behemoth
I was not entirely sure about this release. Regarding the title and bandname, it felt like someone was trying to cash in on the hyped bands in metal these days in a very weird way. Weirder even was the sound, but the label of Blood Music does bring with it some sort of status. Also the label tends to push the envelope a bit. So, first thing to really say is that this is not a metal album. It’s a weird, glitchy bit of synthwave that has strong eighties feelings to it.
That means it has none of the heavy artillery you’d be waiting for, but it does have a whole lot of atmosphere and cold electronics. Therefor it approaches a raw, cold sound rather smoothly and you can actually dance to it. There’s a tension in the sound, that prevents it from moving towards the slightly tacky region of electroclash and revival acts. There’s also some harsh electronics to melt away the clean feeling, all in all this is surprisingly pleasant record.
Perturbator – Sexualizer
Sticking with the Finnish Blood Music for another release, there pops up this strange pink/yellow cover of a re-release of Perturbator’s ‘Sexualizer’. Another bit of peculiar narrative synthwave, telling the story of an inception like story of a drug abusing porn star named Jimmy. The hazy rave like sound is telling the story of how reality start to fade away in the mix of all that. Perturbator is an artist from Paris, delving into the human consciousnes.
The sound you get as a result is a strange mixture between Miami Vice eighties synth and EBM beats from the DAF era. Jazzy loops cut through the rhythm in a spiralling manner, creating that musical high of the storyline. The attempt at creating a story really helps in your interpretation of the music, it sets your mind in motion to visualize and imagine this taking place. It also makes the music more sensible and not just a weird sort of harking back to a long gone past of angel dust, disco and porn. Perturbator is weaving a movie here.
Heidenland – Stormvloek: Beschonken, Kwaad en Goddeloos
The story of this release is rather interesting. The band has been around for 20 years it seems, but only now this compilation/full length is out. Originating in the Netherlands, Havoque started the band to play black metal in the same way as Darkthrone, Bathory and all the original bands. Harsh, lo-fi and anti-christian chants of hatred so to say. After having relocated to Canada, the record is finally ready now and out on Heidens Hart.
Don’t mistake this band for an NSBM band, which I was thinking it might be for a moment. This is simply anti-christian pagan rage as emphasized in the lyrics. Violent and back-to-basics sounding black metal, with that thudding blast-beat drum section, gritty sound and peculiar folk elements to emphasize the ancient pagan roots. The record is labelled as a compilation, which explains the difference in audio quality. It’s a great record for those willing to listen to some good, old black metal, the way they used to make it.
Some new sounds from the underground, worthy a checkout: Cairo Pythian, Bigelf, Árstíðir lífsins and Toundra.
Cairo Pythian – Touched LP
The cold sound of Cairo Pythian is touching upon a more melodic interpretation of Joy Division-despair. An element of Soft Cell and the more swirling sounds of the proto-Goth sounds one could hear in the early eighties is added to that. The group from Olympia, WA has surrounded itself with mystery, which ofcourse adds to their image and credibility.
Musically there’s a combination of that coldwave sound, sampling and industrial. On tracks like ‘Down For The Crown’ there’s a shoegaze-like buzzsaw riff pushing the song forward. ‘A-Sexual Cake’ is much more droning industrial again, which shows the range between which Cairo Pythian is doing their thing. There’s an avant-
gardist streak to their sound, remniscent of the progressive postpunk bands that started implementing industrial elements, like The Residents and Devo. They may be 30 years to late, but their album is a testimony of the lasting fun that post-punk offers.
Árstíðir lífsins – Aldaföðr ok munka dróttinn
An Icelandic/German band that derives inspiration for their blend of folk and black metal from medieval literature from the land of fire and ice. They distance themselves strongly from the NSBM movement, which fills me with joy. Their music is peculiar, hauntingly natural at times and moments later a barrage of fierce riffing. I guess in a way this project sounds a bit like its inspiration. Deep vocals tell stories over fingerpicking guitarwork, violins seem to play and set down a haunting atmosphere.
The songs are long and more focussed on atmosphere then on brutality. Slow, cascading riffs move forwards, while traditional singing creates a powerful feeling combined with tremolo guitarpicking, soaring high above. Tradition and extreme metal meet eachother half way and that feels like the right matchup. The release itself looks amazing as well, this is definitely one of the records you wish to return to. The feeling of ancient wisdowm, the haunting folk music and blistering black metal segments (which are lesser than you think) are right up my alley.
Bigelf – Into The Maelstrom
I’ve started to get into the whole prog thing a while ago, after watching a documentary from the BBC. It’s not a big leap to start listening to a band like Bigelf after that, who incorporate the brilliance of their predecessors like Pink Floyd, Caravan and whatnot with that Cambridge sound. Just add a little swagger to it and some heavy fundamentals and you’ve got a metallized version. Listening to this Bigelf album I must express doubts concerning how metal they are. They’re not heavier than, say, King Crimson in my humble opinion.
Bigelf is the brainchild of Damon Fox, who carries vocal and keyboard duties. ‘Alien Frequency’ is a good example of how the group Americanized the sound, making it more accesible and down to earth then their progenitors. The sound is warm and technical, grand and like a great story the songs unfold with the necessary effects and structured elemens. ‘Control Freak’ is another repetitive and captivating track. I’m amazed at how enjoyable listening to this record is. Though complex, it feels as if it’s open and accesible. Probably a good one to listen to in bed with headphones on, for the ‘Alien Frequency’.
Toundra – IV
This Spanish band has just released their number four. I have no idea why its on the lists of new metal releases, but I’m glad it was. Gentle postrock with a folky feel to it, enriched with strings, right up my alley in many ways. Add to that some horns and you have an amazing trip, which might be the reference of the song ‘Strelka’, which was a Russian dog send to space. Also ‘Belenos’, which is a Celtic deity. The music is calm, languid and wavering on at its own pace. Musically there’s no point where anyone drops the ball and the continuity of this record is definitely one of its main strengths.
Think postrock with extra’s and perhaps thats what it should be labled as; postrock+? ‘Kitsune’, which means Fox and that is how fleeting the music sounds at times, like a fox running through the high grass. It almost escapes you as a listener but keeps circling you. It’s a record to immerse yourself in, to feel elated to, while listening to it on a long walk in nature. The track picks up a roaring sound, that swells up towards the end. I’ve totally fallen for Toundra, I hope you will too.
Who are Ensiferum and what does Ensiferum mean (not just literally)?
Ensiferum is a bunch of people who love to write good music and play their music live. And its the biggest thing in our lives; its our passion, hobby, work and in a way. Its also a family for us.
•What is the biggest inspiration for Ensiferums Music (influences, inspiration)?
Roots of Ensiferums music are in folk music (Scandinavian, Irish etc.) and melodic death metal. When Markus found Ensiferum 1995 he was very inspired by folk music and old Amorphis, Dark Tranquillity etc.
•Ensiferum has been rather succesfull and on the forefront of the pagan and folk metal success of recent years. What makes Ensiferum different/unique to any other band?
Our music and ass kicking gigs. Ensiferum is one of the oldest bands in this genre and we really focus when we write music and not just repeat what others have already done. We challenge ourselves to give our very best on every album and every gig.
•In what way do you think the band has grown from debut album Ensiferum until recent release Far Afar?
Obviously lineup changes have changed the atmosphere inside the band but in a good way. Our spirit is very high and Markus is the founder of the band and he has been the main songwriter so musically things havent changed so much as you might first think.
•Can you describe the process of writing a new album to us, for example the latest Far Away?
Like I said earlier, we really put our minds to it when we compose so the process is usually very long. We all bring ideas to rehearsal room and then we arrange songs together.
•How serious are you about the themes and imagery of Ensiferum?
With therecent increase of popularity of folk and pirate themed metal, do you thinkpeople get into it for the wrong reasons?
It depends. Of course we are very serious about making music but we can also laugh to ourselves and being serious doesn’t mean that you cant have any blink in the corner of your eye. I dont really care about whats going on inside the genre, eventually there will be too many copycats and overall too many bands and folk metal will suffer the same fate as trash, death and black metal. But Ensiferum is one of the oldest bands so we have nothing to prove, we love making this kind of music and we will continue making it even after the hype is gone.
•How do you feel of the stigma of being fascist, nationalist or racist that many folk or folk themed bands have been struggling with, such as Moonsorrow or Skyforger? Has Ensiferum had issues with it?
We havent had too much problems with that and thats good because we have no political or religious points in our music. But I have to say that I think it sucks ass that some people label other people as neo-nazis, facists etc. without any reason. Because that stigma might hunt you long time even you dont have anything to do with that kind of ideologies.
•What kind of booze does Ensiferum have on their rider and do you drink it from horns backstage as well?
Hehe, we use pints. Vodka and beer, thats it.
•What is your favorite touring destination?
Impossible to say, there are some many great cities on every continent.
•You played with quite some cool bands, so which were the favorite ones?
All the bands that we have toured and shared tourbus have been great people. But Tyr and Moonsorrow guys are one of the best people I know and I would tour with them anytme again!
•Ensiferum is playing Fortarock this year, any bands you are going to watch live there yourselves?
As much as possible. I love summer festivals!
•How do you feel about the dutch audience?
Its always been great!
•Last question, you’ve made some awesome video’s that suited the vibe of
Ensiferum perfectly. Would you be up for making a movie soundtrack if it could be like your video’s?
It would be nice challenge to write music to a movie, who knows maybe someday…
Thank you for your time. I hope these questions were interesting so you enjoyed this.