Three years ago the debut of Swedish Death Metal band WULFGAR had blown my socks off, almost literally. While “With Gods And Legends Unite” was highly reminiscent of the mighty AMON AMARTH, the melodies and majestic atmosphere of the songs just captured me from the get-go. So when their second effort “Midgardian Metal” came around, I understandably was excited to hear the new material and for some reason it doesn’t quite hit the same chord with me anymore.
So what has changed? Not too much really (with one big exception that I will come to a bit further on into the review), the Swedes still remind me a lot of AMON AMARTH during their early times (circa “Sorrow Throughout The Nine Worlds”), with the main difference being Emil “Ewil” Augustsson’s vocals, which are in most cases a fair bit deeper than Hegg’s, in some other cases higher and shriller, so less of a powerful bellow, and while he has had this style on the debut as well, it somehow doesn’t sit as well with me.
The production of “Midgardian Metal” is a little less polished than on the debut (also leading to the closer resemblance to AMON AMARTH’s earlier days) and also incorporates a few influences from old school Swedish Death and the Göteborg school of Melodic Death, which sets them apart a little more than before. “Die For My Clan” sets off in style, mid-paced with double-bass and nice power throughout, but the first real deviation from their old style (I know, reads ridiculous on a band’s second release) comes with “Fight, Win, Kill & Conquer”, which not surprisingly is faster and more direct, mixing some Göteborg-style riffing into their sound, which is interesting but the shriller vocals are not my thing, which is a little less interesting, unfortunately.
But they WULFGAR continue to try to find their own niche, title track “Midgardian Metal” is more epic (even including a choir towards the end), “Nifelheim” has a few female vocals and then the big exception that I had hinted at before, “Norsemen Of Steel” takes a solid pounding rhythm and deep growls throughout the intro and verse just to surprise with clear, Power Metal-like vocals in the chorus, which is a huge surprise, but actually doesn’t sound bad at all!
Unfortunately a few of the tracks on “Midgardian Metal” can’t really compete with the highlights, which in the end drags the overall rating down and it is mostly the vocals that do this for me, but that is just a matter of personal taste here. Overall I still stand by my rating of WULFGAR’s debut and their second effort is anything but bad either, I really like that they are trying to open up their sound a little without compromising their integrity (even though obviously hardliners are going to damn them for the use of clear vocals), so check these guys out, they still know how to write quality material and their third album might show their future direction and should manifest their style and status within the scene.
(Online November 4, 2010)