Asguard - Wikka
This Dark Reign Recordings
NWOBHM with extreme melodic death edge and vocals
15 songs (61'01")
Release year: 2005
Reviewed by Alex
Surprise of the month

Some things never became clear with Asguard no matter how long I was flipping the booklet around. Even though the album I am holding is pressed to life in 2005, what releases are the songs from? OK, so there is 2000 or so eponymous EP Wikka. Others are probably from the first demo In the Darkness of Night and the full-length debut Summis Desiderantess Effectibus. Why the order of tracks towards the end is not what is written in the booklet? Why do the hidden tracks show up as untitled? And, finally, if the recent release by Asguard, Black Fire Land, is out as well in 2004, why is that not being pressed and promoted? Oh and how this is labeled True Black metal is beyond me as well.

Other things are, however, clearer than pure mountain water. If you can tolerate extreme vocals and some harsh music elements in your old-school NWOBHM meets Swedish very early primal melodeath, you have to check this band from Belarus out. How could you not, if on the platter we have a full bunch of tight punchy songs, bearing a highly melodic stamp, played well, even though the production is nowhere near par.

With some bands, once you hear the music, the first thought comes to mind: “Fellas, Maiden has done it so much better before. With you trying so damn hard, you can’t even duplicate the original.” I doubt Asguard would deny the fact that Iron Maiden has been their major influence. Opening instrumental title track speaks for itself. Influences are not bad, however, as early Dark Tranquillity and In Flames could attest. Using Maidenish harmonies and riffing and injecting extreme thrash approach worked wonders for those Swedes. Asguard proceeds in the same vein with their Wikka EP tracks – blast a little where necessary but never become overly brutal, insert an acoustic passage (The Black Wandering of Death, Vision 1), have melodies fly galore (Master of Everything) and simply enjoy the quality rhythm and lead guitar playing.

The rest of the “listed” earlier tracks on Wikka are quite a mixed bag. The band must have been searching for an identity. We can find dark and gothic, almost vampirean The Ancient Track with H.P. Lovecraft lyrics. A track like this, perfect on Cradle of Filth, or zombie-oriented Dark Silent Slumber, seems a little out of place with Asguard. Also, it is quite evident that in its earlier days the band was leaning more towards death metal with Hypocrisy reminiscent Doomed … (or is it … an Eternity, track listing gets muffled at this juncture). Downtuned riffs, lots of double bass and low register deathly growl are in store, while earlier EP tracks have dual vocal style with some higher register shrieking. That probably would be the one and only black metal connection I could point out. Also present is Judas Priest cover of Leather Rebel. Very confident in the guitar department I can’t quite imagine this song without Halford’s screams. One lower monotonous voice just does not make it.

Going even further back in time, five untitled hidden tracks are included. The flagship is a 7 min epic where the band pulls off acoustic intro, powerful middle with prominent bass runs and soloing capped by a quirky folk melody end. Tracks like this tend to get people signed. Even though drumming on these early untitled tracks is somewhat mechanical, you can’t deny the infectious nature of the rousing melodies and choppy riffs.

I would be very curious to hear that new release Black Fire Land. It looks as if Asguard stabilized their line-up, Alexander Afonchenko (bass, vocals) and Andrey Tselobenok (guitars) making up the core. Asguard isn’t quite melodic death metal, but in the days when many people are complaining that this genre is stagnating “regional” bands tend to breathe new life, local flair and panache into it. For proof check Mexican Buried Dreams, South Korean Oathean and Michigan’s own Summer Dying. You could say that with Asguard hailing from Belarus (Ukraine’s brothers to the North) they are getting a homey treatment from me. You could be right, but then you’d be missing an interesting new act.

Killing Songs :
The Black Wandering of Death, Vision 1 and 2, Master of Everything
Alex quoted 79 / 100
Other albums by Asguard that we have reviewed:
Asguard - Dreamslave reviewed by Alex and quoted 85 / 100
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