Originally written by Jason Lawrence
To those of you not all too familiar with the Black Metal subgenre, mayhap you don’t really know much about the sub sect of “Viking Metal”, which was arguably started by Bathory, Unleashed & Enslaved, except perhaps those bands and Finntroll (Einherjer, Thyrfing) – but know this: the genre itself has had a recent boom in this decade (mostly from Finland) most of which are serving a fairly predictable mix of folk parts onto a Blackened Power or Traditional Metal base, for example: Ensiferum. Sweden’s Manegarm aren’t quite the norm in this new Viking/Folk Black Metal sound, but they (to me) are definitely one of the best bands exploring the subgenre.
Manegarm started their career in music sounding much more Black Metal than the almost Folk/Death they took a stab at on their newest full-length outing “Dodsfard” (for those not able to speak Swedish, this means something akin to “Death Journey”, which is perhaps best explained by the album artwork depicting a legion of Norse warriors hailing a fallen brother, his body cast out to sea on a burning long boat.) This album is actually a compilation of the two demo recordings they made previous to their first album, Nordstjärnans Tidsålder (The Age of the North star), which are called Vargaresa, and Ur Nattvindar – the demo which got them signed to Displeased Records. Unlike Manegarm’s two newest albums (Havets Vargar, Dodsfard) this is when they still had a lead vocalist, not just Erik Grawsio (current Drums/Vocals) though it seems that the lead vocalists on these demos came and went before they found Viktor Hemgren (a very good Black Metal vocalist in my opinion) for their first actual album, the dual vocal snarls that they had on their early recordings are definitely an added bonus. For the most part these demos are more of a Pagan Black Metal than a Viking Metal though, bouncy choruses and violins aren’t really at the fore here, instead thrashy riffing and some folk melody collide with blasting drums, snarled black metal vocals, and a newly remastered sound …so this doesn’t sound like your usual Norse bargain-basement 1992 demo recording quality while thankfully still maintaining the atmosphere they were going for. Tracks 1-4 are from Vargaresa, and they have a more thrashy sound to them, while Ur Nattvindar, tracks 5-9, has a distinct Viking/Folk bounce with rawer norse black metal style tremolo riffing, also, this is the first time the band used their female vocalist and violins that many fans now associate with them. Ur Nattvindar actually sounds much like Nordstjärnans Tidsålder with some acoustic passages, for those of you whom have heard that album.
This certainly may not be necessary hearing for every sect of the metal underground – but for fans of the band, Black Metal enthusiasts, or people interested in Pagan/Viking based Black Metal in general, buying this up may be to your best interests. This is a fine showcasing of a talented band in their younger years, a fun pick me up for completists, a departure from the normal Marduk or Dissection clones that plague Sweden’s Black Metal scene, and a very decent offering all together, with additional perks like a great new Kris Verwimp artwork, and a well done remastering job from the original demos.