Folky acoustic guitar and fiddle introduce listeners to the eponymous 2015 release by Sweden’s metallic and mighty Manegarm. A definite change of pace from 2013’s Legions of the North, featuring many more quiet, acoustic, moody moments, the new disc brings a welcome dynamic back into metal.
As with Manegarm’s previous efforts, this is just as clear, layered, and well produced. Songs are really well arranged, with ideas shifting as the band intends: sometimes violently, sometimes smoothly. The production is just as good, but not as “ambitious” in the cinematic sound effects department. What’s strikingly different about this album is the sequencing and momentum, with deliberate breaks in the flow of strong emotions every other song. The first few songs on the album are a bit heavier then the remainder, so it’s front-loaded, like many contemporary metal releases. The album flows like a collection of singles cobbled together to make an album, which was the original concept behind albums: releasing compilations of artist’s singles up to that point.
Guitar tone is universally excellent throughout the album, including on the bonus tracks. Instrumentation is expanded from typical metal band fare, incorporating fiddle, synth, and a variety of percussion textures.There’s a nice variety of vocal tones – harsh male, clean female, somewhat clean or melodic male – a lot of effort went into the vocal production on this record. At lower volumes on headphones, effects can be heard on the lead vocal on “Blodorn” – distortion, delay, or just a recording doubling. This is another experimental oddity for a metal group – usually it’s the rockers that experiment with changes in vocal tones. The lyrics sung in Swedish are really nice to hear, because this challenges the “English supremacy” or “all good songs are in English” traditions. This is a band who supports its culture and bolsters its own mythology – a storied, veteran act who is poised to carry a genre’s torch forward. It shows that good music is good music, regardless of if it has vocals, and what language the vocals are in. Even if you can’t understand the lyrics, you can easily appreciate the emotion, the tone or timbre, and the delivery.
Anthemic first or ‘lead’ single “Odin Owns Ye All” is sung in English, which is a change of pace on this generally Swedish-language disc. One of the most uptempo tunes on the album, it’s also one of the heaviest, and most melodic. While the picking might be very fast, the notes are few, and the melody is very strong – traits shared with punk rock and pop music. The “Odin!” vocal bridge is bound to be a live, crowd-chanting pleaser. Second single “Blodorn” oddly seems to be much less fiddly then most of the album. It’s not totally representative of the album, being one of the heaviest songs on this album. Perhaps this is to lure new fans, plus not alienate fans who may have been expecting Legions of the North II. The album on the whole is less angry, and far mellower, then the band’s prior effort. “Call of the Runes”, also sung in English, has a lot of idea shifts, touches on many genres, and has a lot of slightly jagged edges. The false ending adds drama to an already emotive, melodic tune. Mid-tempo “Kraft”, which follows, has a very pronounced bass line in it’s intro, and proves to be one of the tunes on the album that will appeal to a more ‘hardcore’ metal listener. While melodic, “Kraft” is a little more discordant then most fare thus far, and presents an opportunity to treat familiar ground for a listener who isn’t as intimately familiar with the genre. The staccato of the fiddle coupled with standard distorted metal guitar adds a serrated edge that’s emphatic and intense.
“Manljus” and “Mother Earth, Father Thunder” are two bonus tracks included on the full release which were not included with the review copy. “Manljus” is very black metal inspired, very fast paced (blastbeat at times), and sequences very oddly into the already-quirky album. The starkly contrasting, slower bridge of this tune hints at Celtic Frost type inspiration for tone, structure, and tempo. “Mother Earth, Father Thunder”, like “Allfader”, is a very folk-driven tune, much more in line with the album’s secondary, acoustic folk theme.
When Manegarm hits metal stride, it is a beast hard to match. What’s great about this group is how willing they are to experiment with their sound, and incorporate elements from other genres. For this album, a lot of emphasis seems placed on the emotional delivery, versatility, and content of the lyrics – much moreso then for straight extreme metal, either death or black. The strings accents are nice, and that they are genuine is even nicer. While not as face-rippingly heavy and vivid as some of the act’s previous work, it is excellent overall music, and a worthy listen for any fan of folky metal, Viking metal, or the genre in general.
Tagen av Daga
Odin Owns ye All
Vigverk – del II
Call of the Runes
Barsarkarna fran Svitjod
* Mother Earth, Father Thunder
* = bonus track
Erik Grawsio – Vocals, Bass guitar
Markus Ande – Guitar
Jonas Almkvist – Guitar
Jacob Hallegren – Drums