Little was I aware when trawling the remainders of the promo bin for bands containing the word “king”1 but King of Asgard are a well-represented band around these parts. Both AMG and Steel Druhm have enjoyed their past work. Their brand of Viking-themed, folksy, black metal was praised for its stellar riffing and sword-swinging energy. In light of their tenure, the green light was given to their new EP, :taudr:. Comprising just five tracks over thirty minutes, I at least anticipated something which would be sharper than the hour-long albums which are becoming the norm.
As ever, the component instrumentation of :taudr: is executed proficiently. Generally, there’s a good duality of sawing, tremolo-picked guitars to generate intensity and atmosphere with chunkier riffs for groove and melody. For example, the lead on the title track has a definite swing and the riff around 2:30 on “The Curse and the Wanderer” has a cool upwards inflection, among other neat moments. Mimicking this, there’s also a satisfying duality in the vocals which split harsh rasps and Viking-style chants. The chanted melody on “Death… and a New Sun” is fairly catchy and the call-and-response chorus on “… For the Fury of the Norse” is a highlight of the EP. Most impressive is the drumming which is surprisingly varied for black metal and features interesting rhythms. The cannoning entrance to “The Curse and the Wanderer” makes for an appropriately immediate and cacophonous introduction and the aforementioned title lead melody is supplemented by headbang-worthy rolls.
It’s, therefore, unfortunate that these strands aren’t tied together into much that’s truly memorable. I’m not compelled to listen to :taudr: beyond my reviewing obligations. The fundamental problem is that the songwriting lacks focus and consequently feels bland. It doesn’t definitively step in any particular direction: there are gestures to blackened ferocity which are tempered by snippets of catchy vocal melodies which are again at odds with the riff-dominated passages. These elements function counter-productively.
A few extra niggles also compound this general and damning deficiency. “… For the Fury of the Norse” has a disconnected and irrelevant extended introduction and 1 more chorus than is really required which ensures a potentially good track loses impact over its duration. The opening two tracks are both quite forgettable beyond a couple of moments. And while the drums are given decent space at the bottom of the mix, the bass guitar is lost.
In all, it says a lot when the most well-rounded and fulfilling song is the cover of Mithotyn‘s “Upon Raging Waves.” Apparently, I’m the ugly duckling compared with my superiors but there’s so little to write home about here. The nuggets of vitality are encased in mediocrity and I’ve found no reasons to listen to :taudr: later today, let alone later in the year. A bottle of mead offers twice the Viking experience for the same price.