I shouldn’t like this album as much as I do. I really shouldn’t. It’s Power Metal that doesn’t really strive to be anything but. There’s a Heavy Metal streak that keeps it from being as saccharine as a lot of HELLOWEEN rip offs. It’s gotta be the Vikings. I loves me the Vikings. Whatever it is, “Sagas Of Iceland…” has consistently stayed in my CD player or quickly returned since I got it three months ago.
REBELLION was formed by two GRAVE DIGGER alumni, Uwe Lulis (guitar) and Tomi Göttlich (bass). According to the Internet (do you need a grain of salt?), they had some sort of legal dispute with Christ Boltendahl about who got to be GRAVE DIGGER and lost. They released their first album in 2002, a concept album based on Macbeth and another that I can’t tell was based on anything in 2003. The album reviewed here is apparently the first in a trilogy—count my ears perked and my salivary glands in over production.
The opener is a short acoustic introduction, tasteful in recounting the first recorded Viking raid (Lindisfarne monastery, September 793). “Ynglinga Saga” treads resolutely, intentionally forward as it recounts Heimskringla’s version of Odin’s life. It builds to an infective chorus (you’ll see that repeated throughout the album) and features a nice long solo by Lulis in the middle. REBELLION visits the legend of Ragnarr lóðbrok and his sons’ invasion of England in 865 (or the legendary version of actual events) in “The Sons Of The Dragon Slayer (Blood Eagle),” which kicks with a more GRAVE DIGGER-speed and a chorus that will stick in your head for weeks.
Ragnhild? Really? An odd choice, but an okay song. “’Harald Harfager” starts ballady, gets grandiose (fitting for the man who unified Norway), but deteriorates in the last minute and a half into a cheesy distorted narration that seems so popular with German bands. “Eric The Red” is driving, catchy and adventurous. Damn good. “Freedom (The Saga Of Gang Rolf)” (aka Rollo, founder of Normandy) isn’t as good, slowing things down to a suitably barbarian level. In fact, the two weakest songs on the album are right next to each other, as the slow and malcontent “Treason” (about the transgressions of King Harald Greycloak) is disappointingly weak. Fortunately, “Sword In The Storm…” really kicks ass starting with the first bridge and “Blood Rains…” throttles you with its relentless energy.
“Ruling The Waves” brays in with gruff power chords, looking to dominate as surely as Svein Forkbeard, it’s subject, dominated the North Sea in the eleventh century. The post-chorus bridge has been stuck in my head for two weeks now. “Canute…” is a more contemporary sounding song and sees vocalist Michael Seifert, who normally sings in a Christ Boltendahl-style gruff voice, work with his more clean, melodic tones. Finally, “Harald Hardrade” is an alright song, but doesn’t leave much of an impression.
“Sagas Of Iceland” is a fantastic album. The solos blaze, the lyrics are catchy and Seifert’s delivery improves on Boltendahl’s familiar formula. It probably helps that I love the subject material. I keep referring to GRAVE DIGGER and personnel, but that’s the best comparison. At the same time, “Sagas Of Iceland” takes the familiar formula and does it better. A must listen for any fans of GRAVE DIGGER and similar Power/Heavy Metal. (Online June 19, 2006)