Varg – “Zeichen” 2 CD / LP (Napalm Records)
Battle Helm Rating
Taking their name meaning ‘wolf’ from old Scandinavian, this Bavarian Viking metal band show plenty of musical similarities to the likes of Amon Amarth et al. That said, there is also an abundant pagan element in there too resplendent with charming folk melodies to offer a different take on the genre, making Varg highly appealing in their own right. Formed in 2005, they have issued 6 prior full-length releases, a live album, a split record and are highly active on the touring front being a well-recognised name at the European summer festivals. Reinforcing their ranks by recruiting female singer Fylgja this year, it’s like Varg have been in preparation for the big one and “Zeichen” is that release, right from the 10 rich but diverse tracks drawn from pagan bloodlust and Nordic mythology to the media book containing a bonus CD of alternative versions of each song, recorded with renowned guest musicians from Eluveitie, Nachtblut and Equilibrium among others. As the hammering double bass drums and whirring riffs bring their might to ‘Schildwall’, Freki’s roar contrasts the strong Nordic melodies topped off by Fylgja’s screams, and all to a powering groove with plenty of huge headbanging passages to keep any hungry audience satiated – I can’t wait to hear this one live folks! Inspired by the Nordic sea goddess Rán, who pulls wandering sailors down into her wet grave, ‘Fara Til Ránar’ sees Fylgja take vocal prominence through her alternating serenity and screamo, as the energy of the music thunders the song along propelled by the harsh riffs from the triple guitars of Freki, Garm and Mokai, although again awash with plenty of Nordic melodies. Indeed, rocking in with an utterly irresistible melody on ‘Wildes Heer’, the dual vocal switchback between Freki’s roars and Fylgja’s screamo is an absolute winner as the chugging guitars and pounding drums add to the overpowering pagan atmosphere in spectacular fashion. An amazing album, “Zeichen” releases the true character Varg, that of a noble but savage creature and beholden to none!