Truth be told, there’s a decent chance that I wouldn’t be here writing within these hallowed halls without Brothers of Metal. You see, back in 2017 I was a mere lurker at AMG, and might have been content to continue in that capacity if I hadn’t seen a commenter recommending Prophecy of Ragnarök, the debut from the aforementioned Swedes. I checked it out and fell so hard for its sometimes hilarious, sometimes deadly serious take on Norse-mythologized folky power metal that I felt compelled to create a Disqus account just so I could express my thanks to the recommender.1 This broke the seal, and I slowly began to infect the comment section with awkward conversation and terrible jokes and eventually answered the casting call. Needless to say, I was beyond excited to hear that a follow-up to PoR was inbound, but is there any chance that it can live up to the expectations set by one of my very top albums of 2017?2
Hailing from Falun, Brothers of Metal share a hometown and a base sound with the mighty Sabaton. Take the bombastic and chunky power/heavy metal of those Swedish masters of war, add the lyrical themes of Amon Amarth and bit of the purposeful cheese of Alehammer or Glorystorm, and you’ve got a decent idea of what to expect here. But what really sets this 8-piece apart from their contemporaries is the voice of one Ylva Eriksson. Frankly, she’s one of the finest metal vocalists I’ve ever heard and she injects this collection of metal anthems with vitality through a performance that channels Brittney Slayes (Unleash the Archers), Amy Lee (Evanescence), and Enya (Enya, duh). She’s so good that Mrs. Holdeneye was listening and said, “Wow. She’s really good. Why doesn’t she do real music?” It’s not often that my wife compliments the music I love, so I accepted the good from her statement and registered her for a “Remedial Trveness” course at our local counter-culture center to address the intended slight. Eriksson’s talent was evident on the debut, but Emblas Saga sees the band wisely expanding her role and now she’s essentially the primary vocalist. There are also two male growlers/singers with one acting as a narrator at times, and the trio work extremely well together.
An epic overture sets the stage for a trio of songs, each one addressing one of Loki’s children. The world-encircling Midgard serpent is given the cheese treatment on “Powersnake,” a track that seems to appropriately appropriate the Skyrim theme for its intro. The trickster’s daughter, Hel, gets an eponymous song, a massive highlight with a powerful mid-paced lurch and an absolutely stellar performance by Eriksson, and then “Chainbreaker” arrives as an 80’s arena metal romp in honor of Fenrir, the bane of Odin. “Theft of the Hammer” is a hilariously badass tale, embedded track “Njord” is a rousing folk/power anthem, and the title track is a heavy retelling of the Norse creation myth, and all are great examples of how Brothers of Metal succeed at full power. But surprisingly, some of the very best tracks on Emblas Saga are ballads with “Weaver of Fate” and closer “To the Skies and Beyond” featuring soaring vocal performances by Eriksson, and they’re just as vital as any of the heavier numbers.
Like their fabulously famous fellow Falunians(?), Brothers of Metal use a beefy modern guitar tone to imbue their music with heft and might. The production is industry standard, but presents these songs with clarity, leaving plenty of room for every ounce of bombast. The only criticism I might level would be that a couple tracks don’t quite live up to their more stellar neighbors, but even so, there’s something from each and every song that will surface in your mind’s ear later when you least expect it. Emblas Saga uses a simple formula, but the execution and the goddesslike performance of Ylva Eriksson elevate the record to greatness. Check out “Hel,” “Theft of the Hammer,” “Weaver of Fate,” or “To the Skies and Beyond” and hear why Brothers of Metal is quickly becoming one of my favorite bands.
I was worried that my expectations for Emblas Saga would be impossible to meet, but met they’ve been. I might slightly prefer the debut and its more aggressive fare, but what this one lacks in overall heft, it makes up for with ear worm melodies, amazing storytelling, and absolutely captivating vocals. I’m sure that some may be put off by the silliness employed by these brothers and sister,3 but I love this shit and am going to make a bold prediction in this first review week of the new year: Brothers of Metal have just released what will be my most listened to record of 2020.