Vikings. They’ve overtaken motorcycle gangs, sparkly vampires, and variations of the zombie as the Big Thing of the Now in America, if our television shows and Faceborg timelines are correct. Thing is, Vikings have been a trend for a long-ass time in the realm of heavy metal. Hell, Yngwie FOOKING Malmsteen was a Viking long before Amon Amarth first sailed their ships into stormy waters. He even proclaimed so himself! But that’s not gonna stop the new crop of metal bands from brandishing their axes, donning their horned helmets, and sailing away to uncharted lands. Germany’s Asenblut toss their shields into the pagan circle with their third album, Berzerker.
“Berzerkerzorn” leads the fray with a twin guitar melody lifted from Dethklok. There are, of course, far worse bands to lift from, and I like the band and cartoon. Once the song properly kicks in, we are in Full Amon Amarth Mode, with furious double-bass drums, tight riffing, and of course the barked vocals of Tetzel. In fact, I kept checking to see if Johan Hegg picked up a copy of Rosetta Stone – German and decided to form a not-too-dissimilar band. About midway into the song, we’re treated with a twin guitar melody eerily reminiscent of Iron Maiden‘s “Aces High,” before Claus Cleinkrieg lets loose an absolute monster of a solo. While derivative as all hell, “Berzerkerzorn” (and its English language twin, “Berzerker Rage,” which closes the album proper) is an energetic, blackened, and enjoyable romp through well-worn terrain.
And for the first couple of songs that follow, Berzerker keeps up the pace somewhat. “Offenbarung 23” opens up with a “Laser Cannon Deth Sentence”-esque riff that bleeds into a sick bass flourish by Deimos. “Titanenerbe” barrels forth with blastbeats, tight tremolo riffing, and yet another amazing lead by Cleinkrieg. In fact, Cleinkrieg’s incredibly blazing fretwork and the band’s blackened energy are what gives Asenblut a major upper hand against their Swedish older sibling. They’ll need both because, in all honesty, the album gets repetitive as it progresses, and loses its initial power. Truth be told, once things wind down, I’ve already forgotten about most of it save for the aforementioned three songs. At over 58 minutes of run time, that’s never a good thing.
What also doesn’t help the band is the Sebastian Levermann production which, while powerful and guitar-heavy, is overly loud and dynamically squashed to an inch of its life. The only time I heard the bass is during the aforementioned flourish in “Offenbarung 23.” But the bigger concern here is the lack of anything that makes Asenblut stand out as its own entity. As a fan of Amon Amarth‘s earlier output, I should be frothing at the mouth for this, but it’s just too close to the source material to be considered different. Besides, most of us already have The Avenger and Twilight of the Thunder God. However, there’s no denying the energy or skill here, especially in Cleinkrieg’s eye-opening solo work. The potential to grow and evolve exists.
I wanted to like Berzerker more than I eventually did, and it’s not in want of trying. They possess what it takes to become a legit horde to fear. In order to do so, however, they need to find that magic mix of influence and originality. Otherwise, they’ll be known as “that German Amon Amarth,” and they’re capable of so much more.