Following up one of the most impressive debuts in the genre can be an awesome, almost insurmountable task for many bands – and that’s exactly the challenge which faced these young Swedish death metal titans, with this sophomore release.
Fortunately, it’s a challenge they have risen to in impressive style, as ‘…to North’ picks up exactly where 2010’s ‘Fi’mbulvint’ left off, not messing with the formula that made that first opus such a critical success.
With legendary DM specialist Andy LaRocque once again at the production helm, KoA have laid down ten first class examples of the genre – nothing that will go down as classics or true masterpieces, but a collection of songs that should help the band, as they mature further, secure their chapter in the modern Nordic DM canon.
Like many of their contemporaries, KoA have moved away from the overtly dark, pagan themes which characterised Scandinavian metal for many years, exploring instead Viking mythology for many of their lyrics: neither do they seek to cram as many blastbeats or riffs into every last second as they possibly can, easing off the pedal (such as the anthemic ‘Gates Of Ginnungs’) to add to the dramatic effect of the material and their stories. But, when they put their foot on the accelerator, the effect is equally stunning, such as on the classically dark thrash of ‘Nordvegr’.
Each of the four band members turn in superb performances, with band founder Karl Beckman particularly impressive with his towering vocal delivery, which in turn is augmented by some well-placed and highly effective backing arrangements, such as the use of a female voice on the immediately impressive opener, ‘The Nine Worlds Burn’ – one of the best starts to an album of this nature that this reviewer has heard in a while.
Look out Amon Amarth: there are some pretenders to your crown and they are heading north to claim it…[8.5/10]
‘…To North’ is released on Metal Blade on July 30th.
Band photograph by Rickard Moneus.