Released: 2006, Massacre Records
Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat. It always seems rather disingenuous to me when I see a band not from Scandinavia use Viking themes musically and lyrically. I know it can be a bit short sighted but in most cases this isn’t the band’s heritage and when a listener has a sense that the band is only connected to a musical idea because it’s “cool” or “interesting” rather than they’re honestly connected with it in some deeper way, it can come off as rather lame to say the least. This is not meant as a light to the band Runic, a Viking metal band hailing from Spain, but it is a preconception that they will have to overcome with many listeners, including myself.
Runic have been around since 2000, releasing an early EP in 2001 but 2006 sees the band joining the Massacre Records fold and releasing their debut EP, LIAR FLAGS. On initial listen comparisons to bands like Ensiferum, Children of Bodom, Kalmah, and Wintersun are not unjustified as Runic’s brand of melo-death peppered with Nordic folk/Viking melodies and keyboards is extremely close to the sounds played by the aforementioned bands. Growled vocals take care of the vocal landscape with guitars taking the main role to carry the melodies, along with keyboards that range from choral arrangements to orchestrated sections to folky pieces to 80’s synth wank fests (“Liar Flags” would be a good example where a good portion of all of these sounds are executed). Drums generally follow the guitars, especially during heavy sections that see lots of double bass use.
Production wise the album is solid, no complaints at all here as everything is pretty crisp and on par with other bands in the style. As far as the song writing goes the album is probably the same as the production, it’s solid, and probably on par with the rest of the band’s playing this particular style. The only problem for me is that I really only like one band playing this style, that being Ensiferum. Certainly I find nothing inherently wrong with Runic’s music, it’s well executed, well crafted, and there are many subtle touches that are extremely well thought out (the keyboard use in “Last Days of Aghrapur: Pt 1 Ambush” is impressive to say the least). The problem is that this style just does nothing for me in general.
Thankfully I can acknowledge that this music is well crafted, especially for its style. This may even be one of those gems that some people will be pointed to this year that sits with some of their favourites of the genre. I mean, I can’t see a melo-death/Viking metal fan not cherishing songs like “Liar Flags”, the two part “Last Days of Aghrapur”, or “Nau” (the best song on the album built around folk melodies and chants).
If you’re a fan of bands like Ensiferum, Wintersun or even Kalmah and Moonsorrow, you may find something very valuable with Runic’s debut full-length, LIAR FLAGS.