Månegarm - Månegarm - (9/10)
Published on November 24, 2015
Sweden’s Månegarm are probably one of folk/pagan metal’s most steady and consistently high-quality bands ever since their debut Nordstjärnans tidsålder hit back in 1998. Throughout the following five albums the Norrtäljers conquered the metal world with their pretty unique brand of violin-infused folk/black metal of the highest order, just to see a couple of changes after their 2009 album Nattväsen, bassist and lyricist Pierre Wilhelmsson decided to leave the band. The following album Legions of the North did not just see a landslide change towards predominantly English lyrics (whereas in the past an archaic form of Swedish had lent the songs its very own character), but also a musical departure from the firmly folk-based sound towards a more accessible and mainstream approach, which was not all that well received with critics and fans alike.
So with their self-titled debut album the band is kind of reinventing itself by not only bringing back Swedish (with the exception of two songs), but also a far stronger reorientation towards their folk roots, which leads to an almost seamless continuation of their uncanny string of high quality albums, so fans of the band have plenty of reason to rejoice. The rejuvenated folk influence is eminent from the beginning of eight-minute opener “Blodörn” (“Blood Eagle”, an ancient form of torture) on, starting out calm, but then turning into a very powerful track that unites everything Månegarm stood for in the past, including violin and mouth harp.
“Tagen av Daga” is not just one of the album’s highlights, but stands shoulder to shoulder with the best of the band’s already illustrious catalogue with a gloriously playful lead melody, dynamic songwriting and the nay-perfect balance between heaviness and melody, something that continues through the two anglophone tracks of the album, catchy “Odin Owns Ye All” and “Call of the Runes” which balance the different vocal styles, folk-touched melodies and heavy metal foundation, while framing the acoustic duo of “Blot” and “Vigverk – Del II”, which are both good on their own, but maybe would have benefited from not being placed right after each other.
“Bärsärkarna från Svitjod” is another acoustic piece, but both guitars and violin are played harder and definitely are not typical campfire material, but instead have this somewhat aggressive edge to them, which goes well with the title and is an actual nice, fresh take on the acoustic approach within the genre, before stomping “Nattramn” brings the listener back to familiar Månegarm territory.
It is good to see Månegarm sound fully like Månegarm again and this is one of the rare cases, where a band’s return to its roots is a step forward. Folk/black/viking metal does not get much better than this these days and it can only be a matter of time before a wider audience takes notice of this band, because seven outstanding albums (so far) just can’t go unnoticed forever! Månegarm is an absolute must for any fan of this genre and should grace year end lists in the higher regions all over!