The promo sump is deep, dark, and at times, tricksey and false. When you see an album titled Yggdrasil with cover art adorned with the original Norse whomping tree, you’d be justified in expecting a chest-thumping, shield-shattering dose of Viking metal. When the promo material bills this German band as pagan metal and you’re aware that our resident Muppet Boy had it slated for review before dropping it due to time constraints, expectations are heavily reinforced. Then you press play and get…Rammstein singing about Midgard. Yes, Erdling is about as pagan metal as Stryper, and their style is a blend of German goth/industrial tropes and nu-metal, but they are indeed singing about Norse themes as near as I can tell. Founded by several ex members of German goth rockers, Stahlmann, Erdling have been knocking around for a while and Yggdrasil is their fourth platter of techno/gotho/industro/nu weirdness. Now that we’ve established what Yggdrasil is and isn’t, is it any good?
For the style the band traffics in, they’re definitely competent. They sit in a semi-sweet spot between Rammstein and Crematory, mixing prominent pop keyboards with heavy riffing and rough vocals sung in German. Opening proper track “Blizzard” is a dead ringer for the heavier end of Rammstein‘s cesspool, replete with anthemic sing-along sections that feel like they require a beer stein, body piercings and a Stuttgart mosh pit. The same can be said for “Wir sind Midgar” which ropes in more heavy, nu-metal riffing to drive the angry rave sound, aided well by seemingly incongruous poppy keyboards. Robse from Equilibrium drops by to provide death metal croaks on “Im Namen der Krähe” supported by some very Disturbed-esque nu-metal riffs, and the song winds up a decent, upbeat fist pumper as a result. German electronica scene veteran Chris Pohl (Blutengel, Terminal Choice) also shows up to do a duet with vocalist Neill Freiwald on “Wölfe der Nacht,” which is a restrained anthem that manages to be just energetic enough to keep you mildly engaged.
Not every song works as well as the above cuts however. Laid back semi-ballad “Sturmfänger” functions as a change of pace but little else, as its low energy, dreamy style doesn’t suit the band’s limited skill set. “Grendel” is the album’s heaviest song by far, drifting toward a black metal adjacent place at times with harsher vocals and urgent riff attack, but it doesn’t have as much to remember it by as the other material, and it feels out of place and honestly, a bit disingenuous.
At 40 minutes and with songs all in the 3-4 minute range, the material hits quick and moves on, making Yggdrasil a fast, uncomplicated listen. However, the nature of their chosen style makes the songs feel mechanical, cold and largely interchangeable, which causes things to blur together by the midway point. There are high and low points along the way, but the differences are minute. It’s the same kind of thing we’ve heard Rammstein and Crematory doing forever and generally better, so there’s only so much traction this can get. Neill Freiwald is a respectable vocalist for this kind of music but lacks the weird, creepy charisma of a Rammstein‘s Till Lindemann. The riffs churned out by Ne Djentno are a mix of goth/industrial and nu-metal flavors but they aren’t the kind that really grab you or stand out. They function solely to drive songs along and provide a heavy edge. Such is the nature of the genre.
Yggdrasil certainly is not the album I expected to get, but it is the album I deserved for trusting Muppet. I admit I’m not in the market for more German goth/industrial metal, but as things go, you could do worse than this. Yggdrasil did grow on me and there are a few tracks that will end up on my workout and running playlists for their energy quotient. I’ve been defrauded, but I learned some valuable lessons along the way. Wotan works in mysterious ways.