Long five years had to pass before the second work from Norwegians of ÁSMEGIN could see the light of day. During this time the band would not reveal as good as any relevant info concerning the new album nor did they bother themselves about regular updates on their homepage. Many eagerly awaiting fans have though surely forgotten about these “inconveniencies” the moment their fresh deed hit the stores.
“Arv”, which stands for the English word “heritage”, consists of eight songs of distinctive Folk music feeling and Nordic soul. Contrary to the title, this album is hard to classify as a natural follower (or better: heir) to the band’s “Hin Vordende Sod Og Sø”. Already from the first tune a fan well familiar with the critically acclaimed debut will notice that the Norwegians have given their art a new twist. What originally characterized their style, that is harshness and straightforward playing, has somehow been put aside in favour of more polished and at the same time more complicated music approach. The intricacy level alters as well within the new compositions themselves and may initially be a considerable obstacle on one’s way to fully appreciate and enjoy this piece.
It starts off in a truly outstanding way with “Fandens Mælkebøtte”, “Hiertebrand” and “Generalen Og Troldharen” whose most parts are being memorized after barely one spin of the CD. Obviously it does not mean the band have come up with some ordinary “sing and drink-along” merry melodies, quite the opposite actually as these three first records are filled with nothing less than musical maturity and dignified touch. The opener includes very explicit Folk music accents of swinging nature, brutal growls in its more sluggish moments and most of all female vocals whose timbre is really rare to experience in the Metal genre – addictive and hypnotizing to put it simply. “Hiertebrand” in turn can be easily served as a paragon of a Folk Metal composition and frankly speaking this song alone has made me place ÁSMEGIN’s “Arv” on the list of my top releases in 2008. While the lively Folk motif used in the stanzas features a combination of guttural and shrieking vocals, the wonderful chorus part offers again the excellent female singing performance, which altogether constitutes one of the best compositions of the year. Somewhere between the lines we can sense a delicate gust of the group’s previous album era conveyed in the violin-featured fragment of rapid tempo in the track’s middle part.
The same good level of musicianship is being held also in the last of the above-mentioned tracks and then comes the title record which quickly pours cold water on my enthusiasm. The main cause is lack of some captivating tunes which could attract me from the very first second plus the fact that the musicians brought down the curtain on the explicit verse-chorus structure. Another thing is that the Folk inspiration has been reduced (in favour of for instance typical Black Metal aesthetics) and emerges with full power only in the ending tones featuring among others a singing form called “kulning” in Scandinavian languages.
It has to be said that the other part of the album consists of things that are not that easily accessible with the closing tune “En Myrmylne” best illustrating this statement – a somewhat strange track being simultaneously the weakest and the longest one on “Arv”. Certain moments here might surprise to a considerable extent like those in “Prunkende, Stolt I Jokumsol” exuding with Progressive/Jazz warmth, which wakes associations with more atmospheric works from OPETH or the late efforts from ÁSMEGIN’s countrymen of LUMSK.
The tempo of the whole album is fairly slower in comparison to its predecessor, which admittedly does not allow the listener to rejoice in drum barrages and frenzy guitar riffs accompanied by equally passionate Folk passages, yet thanks to this the band were able to emphasize their Folk music fascination even more, let alone the fact that such way of delivering songs is favourable for putting forth the lyrical concept of the album.
With “Arv” the band have undoubtedly made another important step in their career. There is surely a pretty big number of fans who would wish ÁSMEGIN recorded another album in the vein of their first effort. but could that be called a progress? Searching for new musical ways of expressing oneself is a trait distinguishing remarkable musicians from the rest. ÁSMEGIN do not belong to the rest.
(Online July 28, 2009)