Released: 2008, Napalm Records
Norwegian folk metal band Asmegin return with their follow up album to 2003’s HIN VORDENDE SOD & SØ, which was hailed by some as a seminal example of Viking/folk metal. I haven’t heard it, so I’ll reserve my judgment on that score.
I really do want to point out that ARV, to my ears, comprises only about 15% metal. What I mean by that is that the electric guitars have no prominence whatsoever, with only the gruff vocals and the drumming bearing any faint resemblance to metal at all. This, I have to admit, left me feeling rather underwhelmed. A lot of the songs – on first listen, without knowing what the band was about – just seemed slow, plodding and having very little to do with metal, folk, Viking or otherwise. There just wasn’t enough in it to keep me interested for any length of time. The lack of lyrics in a language that I could understand alienated me further.
However, if I take my metalhead hat off and put my world music hat on, ARV now seems quite enjoyable, if for a brief period of time only. There is a wide array of instruments that are interesting in themselves, and given the prominence that they enjoy in relation to the guitars, you might as well revel temporarily in the different textures and dynamics of the instruments and voicings, especially some great haunting violin/accordion passages, a reedy and ethereal female soprano as well as some creepy piano lines.
But on second, third and fourth listens, I find the novelty value tends to wear off. The clean male vocals resemble those on Tyr’s ERIC THE RED, while the harsh vocals can be found anywhere from Amon Amarth to Zyklon, i.e. nothing special nor distinguishing. The fact that there are no memorable riffs, heck, no riffs at all to speak of, means that this album just sort of wanders around in a midtempo midrange haze. I don’t know if the guitar tone was specifically chosen to induce this kind of stupor, but it certainly had that effect on me. At times, there is a weird uptempo jazzy feel to the proceedings, courtesy of some trippy organ/piano work, but that’s about as interesting as it gets.
I actually like the non-metal bits of ARV, especially when the female soprano is singing – she actually adds some colour and outer-worldliness to this rather dull grey-ish soundscape. Other than that, I find nothing in this album that is remotely metal AND enjoyable at the same time.
0/5 as a metal album of ANY description
2/5 for being a moderately interesting Nordic/Viking language world music type thingy.
Total score - 1/5