Formed from the ashes of the highly underrated and (AMG worshipped) Viking metal act Mithotyn, King of Asgard has more or less continued the mission statement of releasing odes to the northern winds, Viking valor and snowy landscapes, all heavily influenced by latter period Bathory as well as Einherjer, Ensiferum. Karg is their third such endeavor and it observes the traditions of its ancestors with all due reverence, while moving things in a darker, more stripped down direction. It’s typical enough for the genre with an emphasis on sharp, glorious riffing and lots of olden style war chanting, and though it does nothing to push the style forward, it’s well executed to the point where that matters less. This is blue collar, working man’s battle metal and as such, it’s an easy to digest, enjoyable listen filled with fist-in-the-air moments which go down even better when paired with several strong ales and an axe wound or two.
They come out the gates with some barn burning riffing and real urgency on “The Runes of Hel” and though it’s very simple, it’s plenty engaging and one can’t help get caught up in the energy and fury. It’s also appropriately epic in scope and has that “sword raised in the wind” vibe Viking metal cries out for. Things get more bombastic and martial on the Amon Amarth influenced “The Trickester,” which is loaded with heroic chanting and fat, authoritative riffing perfect to march into battle with. The Bathory worship comes to the fore on “Highland Rebellion” and the brooding atmosphere recalls Hammerheart in all its ponderous, clunky glory. The inclusion of forlorn, downcast riffs on the back end really elevates the song and adds a crucial layer to the Viking cake.
The rest of Karg runs along this basic template, with some nods to epic doom and the wintry bleakness of old Amorphis on “Remnant of the Past” and elements of dirge and drone cropping up in “Omma,” which feels positively huge even though it features some chanting that strays a bit to close to that of the Oompa Loompas at times. Also of note is the dramatic, forceful riffing and Ereb Altor like chants during “Rising”
This is one of those albums that lives or dies by the Almighty Riff and Karl Backmann and Lars Tangmark do a good job of casting a wide net of satisfyingly heavy, blackened Viking leads that carry the songs along, while spicing things up with doom and the odd traditional metal idea. Though things are kept pretty simple, they have an ear for harmony and melody that many of their contemporaries lack. That said, many listeners will feel like there’s nothing here they haven’t heard elsewhere many years ago. Karl’s black rasp is mean enough for the music, but he rarely changes his delivery and some variety would help shake things up, though the clean chants are satisfying and add a crucial dynamic whenever they appear.
I’ll always miss the Mithotyn days of yore, and this is a happy reminder thereof. I’ve enjoyed every King of Asgard album and Karg is no different, though it falls just short of must hear territory. Fans of Bathory and Viking fare will certainly enjoy it and those frustrated with Amon Amarth‘s recent output may also get a violent rush from it. Fight on, Sons of Wotan, fight on.