Somewhere in the footnotes of time will be a very special place for Viking metal and I am looking forward to that day as I find this genre of metal to be one of the most enjoyable routes to escapism in heavy metal! I will concede that Viking metal at times can be an acquired taste and if it is not done properly then the end result can be something of an embarrassing mess. There are few bands out there that are really great at combining what is needed in the raw power and glory to make a spectacular Viking themed metal album. The obvious kings of the realm are of course Amon Amarth who has an ability to make a monster of a Viking themed album every time they go into the studio and hopefully will be gracing us with a new album in June of this year. I have listened to a lot of Viking metal, or folk metal if you prefer and there really is a fine line between fun and parody. What Amon Amarth brings to the table is a fun and powerful album that you have to respect not just for its general themes but the musicianship that is attached to what they put on their recordings. Additionally; they have an uncanny ability to use the niche they have created in this genre to create unique subjects that don’t become stale or boring. Not an easy feat I would think. They are not having fun with Thor and Valhalla but taking the story line serious enough to create a story that the listener cannot help but understand and enjoy.
So why in a review of a new Viking metal band am I going on and on about Amon Amarth? Because they are the benchmark for this genre of metal, no matter what you do as a band in this genre you will be compared to these behemoths. No way around it, just the way it is. So where does the new album from the band Wandersword fit into this specialized genre of metal? I would have to say somewhere right in the middle. Right off the top Wandersword’s debut album Waiting for War is a fun ride through Viking lore of the past. The musicianship on this album is un-deniable, these guys can shred! They bring a unique viewpoint to the genre and being from Russia brings a unique sound as well. You can hear the little hints of the influences from the Russian Motherland as well as the expected Viking/folk sounds that one would expect.
There are not a whole lot of surprises on this album with maybe the exception of the rough vocals; it is an interesting choice for this genre but not too far away from what bands like Amon Amarth, Talamyus, or Ensiferum do at times in their music. Of course the whole album is sung in Russian so the choice of vocal style may be moot. The album starts off a frenetic pace and stays strong throughout. There comes a point though in this album that it veers into the folk side of this genre a little far for me and has a tendency to just graze the line between serious Viking metal and the parody of itself that I discussed above. One of the easiest examples of this is in the opening title song which is an instrumental intro to the album that is strong on the bagpipes, violins and folk sound. It reminds me of the soundtrack to the movie Braveheart which in and of itself is not a bad thing but the ability to become clichéd is evident. It doesn’t cross the line but it definitely skirts the Turisas territory, and that is not a bad thing all together as they do come back to the power that really good Viking metal is about. However, the album moves right into the destruction of the norm with the second song on the album “The Valiant Viking” which immediately shows off the talent of this band and is a fine example of how well they should be able to fit into this genre of metal. As the album moves on you can feel just how dedicated this band is to the music and musicianship that is on display on this album. I think that is the most important take away from this offering, which is, these guys are not trying to recreate the genre but to bring the best they possibly can to it and create fun and inviting albums for fans to enjoy. I look forward to seeing what Wandersword will be able to do in the future as I see that it could possibly be bright if they continue with the conviction that shows through on this album. So, the bottom line as with any review is this album worth spending your hard earned money on? Yes! Give this band a try and I am sure you will be happy with what you hear. This album is a solid start for this band and a solid find for Blasphemour Records and well suited addition to their stable of Viking metal bands like Frost Giant.
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