Released: 2006, Independant
Magnus Thorsen is a new name on the international metal market, a guitar player who seems to already have some strong ties in the Texas metal scene. Magnus Thorsen’s debut release, the VALHALLA RISING EP, was actually referred, and sent, to me by a fellow on the Metal Rules message board. I showed major interest seeing as Absu drummer Proscriptor McGovern apparently played drums on the album. So today, I’ve probably listened to this little EP a good number of times and I must say I’m impressed.
This band plays power metal, not on the fluffy side, but rather fast (near speed metal) and reasonably melodic. Maybe mid-period Blind Guardian would be a good comparison, though this is no clone, Thorsen clearly has his own identity as far as song writing and melodies go, even if his vocal is that of a Hansi Kürsch by way of Quorthon (think of the vocals on BLOOD ON ICE) which may lead some to quickly write off the music contained on VALHALLA RISING. The music is pretty double bass heavy, lots of straight chugging riffs, but don’t be fooled, the songs do not descend into any form of generic power metal. Thorsen’s sense of traditional, speed, and epic metal keep the album from being just another generic power metal album that you’ve heard a million times.
For a debut release, that was mostly, self-recorded, the album sounds impressive. Certainly the sound isn’t clear and pristine, the guitars can even sound a tad muddy hear and there, but it has a certain character about it that doesn’t make it sound out of place for the music. The album opens with a keyboard intro, “Adrift in the Astral Plane”, sounding almost like something I’d expect from the Legend movie soundtrack. The track nicely sets up the speedy, “Of the Dragon”. The track is fast paced speed metal from the get go, the main riff having some nice accents, both from guitars and drum fills. Listeners will immediately be able to tell Thorsen’s influences vocally, as he goes right into his aforementioned Kürsch/Quorthon vocal style. The song even uses some sections with regular talking, and while sections like these usually fail, it somehow works here; quite probably because these sections aren’t overdone and create a nice transition. There’s even some interesting blast beats thrown into one of these particular sections, right before what could be considered the song’s breakdown. The song hits it's peak in speed shortly after as the guitars and drums furiously work towards the song's end.
“The Chaosknight” opens up with lead guitar over drum fills as the song settles down shortly for a rather open guitar during the song’s verse. The vocals and lyrics taking center stage, even when the guitar takes a higher profile later on, the vocals, and especially keyboards (during the chorus) retain their firm hold on the song. One thing I was rather disappointed with during the track was the battle noises as they nearly drown out the song entirely until the solo kicks in and cuts through it. “Quest for the Jomsviking” kicks off sounding as though one is jumping into the song after it was already started. The lead guitar kicking off over top of the intermittent double bass drum runs, carrying a particularly infectious melody. Unfortunately the first few lines of vocals sound pretty strained, showing, what I believe, to be some of Magnus’ limits as a vocalist, especially in that higher range. The soloing that shows up immediately after more than makes up for it, the vocals for the rest of the track sound much better. It’s always impressive when the “catchiest” part of any song isn’t a vocal, but a guitar melody (the beginning section, which repeats itself throughout the song). The EP ending instrumental, “Mjolnir”, is the most epic of all the tracks here and has, what I feel to be, a strong link to Viking metal bands. The song opens with the sound of waves crashing against the shore, only to be interrupted by acoustic guitar and backing drums. Epic melodies roll throughout the song, even when the electric guitar comes in and solos interlaced with melodies are thrown about. The song picks up speed shortly after a minute and a half but the songs remains melodic and epic, through the use of solos, keyboard work, and some impressive riffs.
VALHALLA RISING is a great teaser of what metal fans could see in the future from Magnus Thorsen. The band’s sound has a little touch of everything power, speed, or epic metal fans could want, not to mention some very strong songs that aren’t incredibly clichéd or generic in approach. The future for Magus Thorsen is bright, and I’ll be interested in hearing the full-length the band plan on recording in the near future.