[Time Capsule] A Review of Nothgard’s “Warhorns of Midgard”–Five Years Later, and Every Bit As Good as the Day of Its Release

Melodic Viking death metal masters Nothgard are alive and well in 2016, having produced a number of superb albums over the past decade.  And while each album is worth owning, it is the band’s 2011 masterpiece Warhorns of Midgard that has best stood the test of time as a near-perfect execution of the pagan-themed metal many extreme metal fans have come to recognize as a fusion of modern, crushing metal, complete with harmonized guitar leads, the incorporation of folkish elements, and intelligent lyrics and song titles that reinforce the mythically thematic elements woven into each one of Warhorns of Midgard’s tracks.

Album Details

Track Listing

Cover Art

  1. Lex Talionis
  2. Arminius
  3. Under the Serpent Sign
  4. Einherjer
  5. Shadows Arise
  6. Blackened Sky
  7. Victory
  8. Warhorns of Midgard
  9. Spirit
  10. Ancient Heritage / Modern Warriors
  11. Rise After Falling
  12. Ragnarok
midgardListen to the full-length album here!

Over the past 15 years, the sub-genre of Viking-themed metal has grown exponentially, meaning there is no shortage of technically adept musicians seeking to honor the glory of the conquests led by Scandinavian explorers from the 8th through the 13th centuries.  All too often for fans of extreme metal, however, such records emphasize the folkish elements of pagan metal while sacrificing the speed and brutality that not only conjures the power of the AEsir but also provides the aggression and fearlessness of the fearless Norsemen who sailed around the world to discover and conquer.

Fortunately, Nothgard delivers both the folkish and the brutal in equal parts, making for a thoroughly enjoyable, motivating, and respectful tribute to those who came before us and risked everything to discover new lands for both plunder and settlement.  Simply put, Warhorns of Midgard does not let up from start fo finish, and each song offers a unique variation on the pagan metal formula.

As readers of MetalAteMyBaby.com know, only individual songs thus far have been rated according to a formal and numeric system.  Nothgard’s masterpiece will be the first full-length effort to be evaluated in a similar fashion, though, with this being a test run, the categories and rating system may seem crude and are subject to change moving forward.

As this is MAMB’s first attempt at formally quantifying the merits of an album, the categories may seem somewhat abstract–and perhaps even unrelated to one another.

Sheer Epicness: Viking metal is inherently epic, given that the music provides an exhilarating soundtrack for lyrics detailing the heroic exploits of our Scandinavian forefathers.  The galloping pace of Nothgard’s double-bass driven attack alone supplies an epic foundation for the rest of the band’s instrumentation, while twin lead guitars further play on the primitive instincts that lay dormant in every man and woman of Nordic decent.  (9/10)

Technicality: The elite pagan metal bands are as technically accomplished as many bands identifying as technical death metal outfits.  To be sure, Nothgard dispenses with erratic, unpredictable time changes and overly syncopated drum beats–and yet, ultimately, this restraint makes Warhorns of Midgard that much more listenable.  The technical prowess is there, to be sure, but it serves the thematic message of the music instead of overshadowing it.  (8/10)

Thematic ExcellenceThe cohesiveness of the thematic message featured on Warhorns of Midgard truly sets Nothgard apart from their talented counterparts within the pagan metal genre of extreme metal.  For example, the album’s second track, “Arminius,” tells the story of the titular character and his efforts to unite his clan in pursuit of freedom and happiness.  Two songs later, “Einherjer” recounts–in German–the inevitable consequences of taking up the sword and heading to battle.  Following an instrumental track, the second half of the album probes further into the choices, sacrifices, and consequences of living and dying by the sword, culminating with the album’s final track, “Ragnarok,” which, of course, reminds the listener that the pagan end of the world means “[T]he end of all / no one to escape.”  (10/10)

[Author’s note: Until MetalAteMyBaby.com finalizes the remainder of the rating system, Warhorns of Midgard and subsequent albums will be rated on a scale of one to 30.]

Total: 27/30

As mentioned, Nothgard is alive and well and continues to produce music well worth owning.  If you’ve never listened to this immensely talented band, start with Warhorns of Midgard.  You’ll become a fan upon your first listen.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Nothgard/
Website: http://www.nothgard.de/

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What I’m Listening To: Week of 06/05-06/11/2016 (Jason)

Technical Death Metal Edition (Volume I)

A selection of the technical death metal songs and albums I’m listening to this week, along with accompanying album and genre information:

  • First Fragment, Dasein, the band’s 2016 release on Unique Leader Records (Quebec, Canada) maxresdefault
  • Hideous Divinity, Obeisance Rising, the Unique Leader Records release from 2012 (Italy)
  • Arkaik, Reflections With Dissonance, the full-length 2010 release from Riverside (California, USA)
  • Spawn of Possession, Cabinet, one of last decade’s most influential technical death metal release (Europe)

— Jason

Remember to like and subscribe to the YouTube members taking the time to post such extraordinary music!  Just as importantly, buy each band’s albums and see them in concert!

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Claiming the Throne: Our Exclusive Interview with Throne of the Beheaded

[Author’s note: Special thanks to Throne of the Beheaded for taking the time to answer our questions, especially considering how busy the band is recording new music and working with their new vocalist.]

MAMB: OK, I’ve got to make sure I’ve got this right–your entire band is 15 years old and younger?! I mean, I remember being blown away hearing Alexi from Children of Bodom and Syn from A7x were in their late teens when their respective bands’ first albums came out, but….15? Were you all always musically gifted? And did you begin lessons at early ages?

Originally were; now Noel and Hector are 15, Adam and Jeremy are 18. We grew up with and were always obsessed with metal. throne

MAMB: What was your inspiration for choosing the band name “Throne of the Beheaded”?

It just happened, like some edgy deathcore miracle.

MAMB: Who woWe stick to deathcore as a label, but we’re basically somewhat-technical melodic deathcore? Due to our use of breakdowns, gang shouts and song structureuld you name as your five biggest musical influences, metal or otherwise?

Shadow of Intent, Angelmaker, As Blood Runs Black, All Shall Perish, and 2006 Bring Me The Horizon.

MAMB: Your Facebook page and YouTube channel classify your music as deathcore. As an independent listener, I heard deathcore influences, along with very melodic and brutal elements as well. With so much debate within the metal scene regarding “proper” sub-genre classification of bands, did you opt to just keep it simple and go with the deathcore label to avoid all the infighting? Or was the sound you originally played traditional deathcore prior to evolving into what we hear on “Severed Ties”?

We stick to deathcore as a label, but we’re basically somewhat-technical melodic deathcore.  (Due to our use of breakdowns, gang shouts and song structure.)

MAMB: Did you self-produce “Severed Ties”? If so, how were you able to secure the necessary funding for such a well-produced release?

We did! And everything was done with Reaper–Seraph samples for drums, Toneforge/Pod Farm for guitar/bass, and Gain Reduction for vocals.

MAMB: You guys hail from San Antonio, Texas. How is the metal scene in that part of the country?

SA’s scene is basically all hardcore. Deathcore isn’t neccesarily dead here (Of Ruins, House By The Ditch) but local bands wise you’ll either always see hardcore, beatdown, punk, or metalcore.

MAMB: You’ve got a new vocalist, Adam. How did you come to know him and decide he was right for the band?

We met at our first show, and have always been friends with him and his old band (A Sunday in Salem). When we needed a vocalist, he said he was down and after doing a few demos, [we] discovered he was a good fit.

MAMB: Noel’s guitar work is stellar throughout the album, with sludgy riffs counterbalanced with melodic leads and galloping rhythms. What is his axe of choice, and what tuning are the songs on “Severed Ties” recorded in?

Sterling by Music Man JP70, and all songs were A#

MAMB: In this age of hyper-technical death metal (think Beneath the Massacre or Rings of Saturn), it’s refreshing to have a rhythm section perfectly paired to the lead guitar and vocals. Hector and Jeremy do an excellent job showing restraint when others would have gratuitously have added over-the-top bass-drum triggers that sound like old-school typewriters. And yet, when the intensity ramps up, they both work beautifully to drive the music aggressively. Do Hector and Jeremy have inspirations for their instruments of choice?

Hector is inspired by Tool and a lot of prog and 2007 deathcore bassists. Jeremy is inspired heavily by jazz and tech.

MAMB: In your opinion, who’s at the top of the mountain right now in terms of metal bands, both talent-wise and in just simply bringing the rage every time they take the stage?

We gotta say, Of Ruins is killing it in the local scene.

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Song Review: “Aeon” by December Flower (2011)

From Lower Saxony, German, December Flower was active for just more than five years.  While extreme metalheads mourn talented bands that are unable to continue making quality music, a more appropriate attitude would be to be grateful for the material December Flower recorded during their half-decade as an offical band.

“Aeon” is a 2011 track from the band’s album entitled, When All Life Ends.  Astute In Flames fans will immediately note that both the band name (December Flower) and the name of the song reviewed below are both direct inferences to Jesper and Co.  Unsurprisingly, December Flower’s music is very reminiscent of In Flames’ style circa 1995-2001.  Fans of extreme music are often divided when it comes to such bands:  129228_photosome consider bands such as December Flower to be mimicking a two-decade-old sound, the time for which has long since based the metal community by.  Many others, conversely, respect and admire December Flower for preserving the definitive traits of Gothenburg metal and are very pleased there are talented bands committed to continuing to churn out high-quality melodic death metal music.

The first 45 seconds of December Flower’s “Aeon” are extraordinarily reminiscent of the golden age of the “Swedish Sound” of the mid- to late-1990s.  Retreat or reinterpretation, the music, vocals, and lyrical content ooze talent, and the music itself is simply fun to listen to, regardless of mood.

Vocals: Frontman Manual Siewert bring the rage and melancholy often associated with the Gothernburg sound.  That said, he fails to demonstrate much range and relies on mid-level growls, which, unfortunately, can become rapidly played out or disinteresting.  (6/10)

Guitar: Torsten Horstmann is unquestionably an excellent guitar player.  For “Aeon,” however, Horstmann relies on chunky riffs and a moderately intimidating atmosphere element.  An extended solo would have added a much-needed burst of adrenaline into “Aeon.”  (7/10)

Bass: Ben Bay does not allow himself to get lost in the swirling melodic guiars that define “Aeon.” Whether he isn’t given much time to shine within the band or simply understands his role as a bassist, the fact remains that he’s a very proficient percussionist.  (7/10)

Drums: The percussion work provided by Daniel Dickmann is solid, energetic, and in complete service of the overall musical direction of “Aeon.”   (8/10)

As a unit: December Flower excels at presenting a cohesive band with a unified message.  The band’s ability to forge the disparate instruments used by December Flower to create complete, cohesive songs. (9/10)

Subtotal: (37/50)

Technicality: December Flower isn’t overly technical, undoubtedly in part to the fact that the German band is more interested in melody and quality song-writing.  Each band member is obviously technical proficient, though these abilities don’t show through dramatically in “Aeon.”   (7/10)

Originality: December Flower suffers in this category in a similar fashion to the manner in which the band was slightly marked down in terms of Memorability.   (6/10)

Brutality: To be fair, laying down a brutal or technical death metal record was not December Flower’s concern when recording “Aeon.”  The down-tuned guitars, growled vocals, and inherent emotion in Manual’s vocals and the tuning of each of the band’s instruments, “Aeon” likely  as brutal as any melodic death metal song is capable of being.  (7/10)

Thematic: Instead of falling into the trap of mimicking In Flames’ lyrical themes, December Flower has its on lyrical agenda, the ambitiousness of such is clearly evident in “Aeon.”  (8/10)

MemorabilityWith the number of modern melodic death metal bands emulating In Flames, Dark Tranquility, Arch Enemy, Soilwork, and other Swedish heroes from 20 years ago, the song “Aeon” itself is not particularly member.  To be sure, it is a gorgeously constructed song; it simply isn’t overly memorable.  (7/10)

Subtotal: (35/50)

 

For a video version of the song, click here.

Total: (72/100)

— Jason

» December Flower on Facebook

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What I’m Listeing To: Week of 05/30–06/04/2016 (Jason)

Pagan / Viking Death Metal Edition (Volume I)

Everyone–black, white, and everything inbetween–has a right to be proud of and to celebrate their ethnic heritage and cultural traditions.  I, personally, am exceptionally proud of my bloodlines, promping me to make this weekly edition strictly about folk and Viking pagan metal:

A selection of the songs I’m listening to this week, along with accompanying album and genre information:

— Jason

Remember to like and subscribe to the YouTube members taking the time to post such extraordinary music!  Just as importantly, buy each band’s albums and see them in concert!

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