In 2003 the Norwegian Folk Metal outfit ÁSMEGIN exploded onto the scene with their debut album "Hin Vordende Sod & Sř", which combined "beauty and the beast" vocals with traditional Norwegian instrumentation. The result was nothing less than one of the finest releases yet to be conceived in their genre, but as the years went by the band seemed to disappear completely, with the exception of a news post promising that a new album was in the works. Now, five years later, I finally hold in my hands copy of the long-awaited album, which has been given the name "Arv" ("Heritage"), and the waiting has come to an end.
The first noticeable change from "Hin Vordende..." is that none of the songs on "Arv" don't have those insanely addictive fiddle-melodies to grip the listener right away. That's not necessarily a bad thing, since catchiness is often inversely proportional to depth in music, but I still wouldn't have minded some instant classics like "Blodhevn" and "Til Rondefolkets Herskab" from the debut. Much of the upbeat crazy folk-romp has been sacrificed in favor of a epic and sometimes mournful mid-tempo viking affair, which demands your full attention to effectively suck you in.
Despite dramatically changing their musical direction, “Arv” is still a Folk Metal album at its heart, cleverly avoiding cliches by mainly concentrating on Norwegian folklore instead of the now tired battles-and-beer formula (as an example, "Fandens Mćlkebřtte" translates to "The Devil's Milk-Bucket"). The variety in instrumentation and vocals is still ever-present, despite the fiddle playing a less relevant part this time around, and this progressiveness allows the band to explore an impressive range of emotions. The aggressiveness of "Hiertebrand" doesn't sound remotely similar to the mellow beauty of “Prunkende, Stolt I Jokumsol”, yet somehow they feel like they were made for each other. Thus “Arv” is able to survive through an unknown number of listening sessions, and migth be one of those releases that seems to age like a fine wine, as time will tell.
On their debut album, ÁSMEGIN provided a more sophisticated alternative to the silly catchiness of bands like FINNTROLL and KORPIKLAANI, which made them stand out and truly leave a lasting impression. However, five years is a long time, and it might have felt a cop-out if the band kept slavishly following in their own footsteps. There is no doubt that “Arv” is a much more mature effort than its predecessor, yet it suffers from a lack of brilliant songs, since out of the eight songs, only a few really stand out. It seems that ÁSMEGIN are victims of their own past achievements, but it's important to note that “Arv” still stands perfectly well on its own legs. It's only with a slight case of disappointment I have to conclude that “Arv” is a strong album, but it still falls several longships short of the masterpiece “Hin Vordende Sod & Sř”.
(Online December 29, 2008)