Funny how the brain works. I had been put off this band for at least a while due to the name being immediately associated with legendary asshole Varg Vikernes; it had to be a side project or a worship project, right? Well shame on me for not realizing “varg” might mean something else entirely (“wolf”, as it turns out, in both Swedish and Old Norwegian) – not to mention that their entire output was in German. It finally clicked for Captain Obvious here when I saw that the band Varg had recorded their latest album in both German and English (Das Ende Aller Lügen / The End of All Lies). While I was intrigued I also had a feeling that it was a bad idea. German-born songs rarely translate well to English. Why would you want to do that anyway? German is the most metal language out there; it makes any lyric sound bad-ass. Hell, no one who has heard both versions of Rammstein’s “Du Hast” thinks that the English version is better. At any rate, this daring move coupled with the Turisas-meets-Kreator promo photos got me to sit down with Das Ender Aller Lügen (and eventually with The End of All Lies), to largely positive results.
Right away, I began to question my decision when a German speech opened the album, but what I thought might have been taken from an Adolf Hitler speech turned out to be Charlie Chaplin from “The Great Dictator” – yeah, I knew what “Der Groβe Diktator” meant, but you never know with musicians. Turns out this apparent pagan/Viking/war/folk metal band has a societal side, with this album dealing largely in anti-fascist/dictatorial themes. The title track is a pretty good battle cry/call to arms, though a bit more melodeath (even metalcore) than I expected. They double down on this on the next couple of tracks, unfortunately taking away much of their bite. “Streyfzug”, in particular, is completely neutered when translated to English.
Things pick up again for “Achtung” with a chant-along chorus and marching, musical hooks (even if that video doesn’t make a lick of sense), and “Dunkelheit” shows off some of their black/pagan/Viking leanings before “Totentanz” slows things to a crawl, complete with guest female voice. It doesn’t really work in either language. They make up for it though with the powerful “Einherjer” and the blistering “Wintersturm”, though they almost lose it with album closer “Aschergen”, which is just a few beats above a dirge and doesn’t move you either way.
I’m not going to address the English versions any more than referenced above, other than to say it’s nice that they are trying to spread their message further, but the change is more a detriment than a benefit. Musically the band has good ideas but they’re hardly groundbreaking; the German vocals make it just unique (to these ears) enough to stand above similar sounding bands. With the English vocals they could be any one of a thousand New Wave of American Heavy Metal bands, and we all know how quickly that movement got stale and played out.
So, Das Ender Aller Lügen is at least worth a listen, the good tracks outweighing the bad. Just don’t let the album art fool you into thinking you’re getting a battle metal album or anything. Oddly, though – and this just occurred to me – the red and black facepaint the members of Varg are covered in are the same colors of the nWo Wolfpac of the late 1990s. That’s kind of blowing my mind right now. Maybe their entire existence is a huge metaphor for the Monday Night Wars.
Nah, that seems unlikely.
Anyway, back on point: check this one out, just leave the English versions in the CD case (or in the cloud, if you’re a digital person.) While you’re doing that, I’ll check out the back catalog for WCW references – I mean, more of the battle/war/Viking/folk leanings I was expecting.