Månegarm // Nattväsen
Rating: 4.5/5.0 – Excellent! Sounds like Vargstenen, but who thinks that’s bad?
Label: Regain Records
Website: myspace.com/manegarm | manegarm.com
Release Dates: EU: 19.11.2009 | US: 11.22.2009
Nattväsen (Night Creatures) is the name of the new Månegarm record, and one that works well with the feel of the entire album. Clocking in at a good LP length of 45 minutes, this record explores musically and lyrically the fears which we as humans have had as long as there has been night. Those fears of the things that creep out of sight, be it the ghost of a mountain (“Bergagasten”), the creatures in our dreams (“Nattsjäl-Drömsjäl”) or a mythical creature (“Draugen”). This concept seals together a record of some of the best folk/viking metal that is currently available by any band.
Honestly, I’m a sucker for Månegarm‘s style. It’s like a great big blend of Otyg and Amon Amarth. Fusing the melodic death metal with more clean vocals, folky riffs and melodies and violins leads to some of the best riffing and memorable tracks I’ve heard on any record this year. It’s the kind of stuff that makes you rock out at the time and then, later, when you’re doing whatever you’re doing (in my case it was doing dishes—you know, angrily.. ’cause that’s what Angry Metal Guys do..) you start whistling melodies.
Really, the songwriting is great. While the structures are often pretty traditional, they keep it fresh enough with a good mix of thrashy clean vocals, good vocal harmonies and death metal vocals that you never feel like they’re falling into too much repetition. The musicianship isn’t over-the-top progressive, but there are some pretty bad-ass electric violin solos from the poofy-haired member of the band (Jan Liljekvist) and the band is equally comfortable writing good clean parts, and even a full acoustic track (“Delling”) which signals the dawn of a new day.
It is this kind of musical and conceptual cohesion that makes Månegarm the cream of the crop in this genre right now. Their ability to consistently write intelligent, coherent records that smack of musical taste and maturity at the same time as writing addictive, sing-songy melodies (visor) is something that I think is phenomenal. There are not many bands that have the same musical breadth and depth as Månegarm does, while not making their music pretentious and out of reach. And while this record is not a terrible departure from Vargstenen, why break down the formula that is obviously working for them? The only major format change is that it feels like the songs have more folk-breakdowns than on Vargstenen.
Simply put, there isn’t a bad track on this album. My favorite is “Nattsjäl-Drömsjäl,” but every song on here, including the acoustic one, stands up to the test. The band also does a good job of linking things and creating a feeling of creepiness and uneasiness at various points in the album, which definitely lends to the concept being such a phenomenal success (see: “Hraesvelg” and “Nattväsen” for examples of this).
All-in-all, this is a great record with all the working parts in order. I honestly hope this record thrusts the band more into the public with some better promotion and a good touring package or two (you hear that Heathenfest organizers? These guys are so much better than fucking Blackguard). Sure, all the lyrics are in Swedish, so it’s a little harder for an English language audience to really pick up on it, but Ensiferum and Korpiklaani really enjoy more success internationally—I’d like to see the same for these guys, because they deserve it.