Few can forget the Power Metal resurgence that truly great records like Visions, Return to Heaven Denied, and Glory to the Brave sparked in the late 90s. Even fewer can forget the absolute barrage of garbage that those albums inspired; it was enough to turn me off the entire subgenre within a year of discovering it. But among that stupefying bombardment of mediocrity, one minor classic slipped through the cracks bearing an unlikely imprint and went almost completely unnoticed. It was a side project by Afflicted bassist Philip Von Segebaden called Defender. The album was called They Came Over the High Pass, and it was released by Necropolis Records, a grimy little label that specialized in really bad black and death metal and released only a handful of great albums. This was one of them. And man, was it good. It stood above the fray because rather than aping Helloween or other p-metal greats of yore, Defender channeled the NWOBHM underworld and created a slab of beefy melodic heavy metal that both sounded and looked like it could have inspired Iron Maiden. The meh production and vocals did absolutely nothing to detract from gems such as “High Himalayan Valley.” Defender seemed poised to save power metal from itself.
And then they just kinda vanished.
Which is why I feel kinda giddy listening to Fornaldarsagor, the first offering from Sweden’s Månegarm in some four years. The fury we hear on this album’s opening track “Sveablotet” certainly recalls the black metal and viking metal bands among whom Månegarm are routinely mentioned, with a healthy dose of clean vocals at the interlude that remind the astute listener of Vintersorg. And that’s cool and all, but it’s the following tracks, “Hervors arv” and “Slaget vid Bråvalla,” that have me all freaking giddy, because it sounds almost as if we’ve finally heard from Defender again after a twenty-year absence. And it’s delicious.
This, however, is a Månegarm album, and as such, they admirably live up to their reputation as reliable dealers of rough-edged melodic folk metal with the occasional violin, female lead vocalist, and black-metal outburst. Writing almost entirely in Swedish, Månegarm are clearly an outfit that targets a narrow demographic, though a cover of Motorhead‘s “(Don’t Need) Religion” and a nice little ode to the devil offer respite to audiences who simply cannot handle anything other than English. Ultimately, Fornaldarsagor is a rewarding listen that delivers the goods to those who are already into this sort of thing, but apart from those two English cuts, the band does very little to expand their listening base. And being that this band is twelve records and nearly twenty-five years into their career, it’s unlikely that Månegarm cares much about mass appeal. Props to these guys for expanding their sound while steadfastly sticking to their guns.
Note: Listeners may be wary of some of the wolf and runic imagery Månegarm frequently use. Though this sort of imagery has long been appropriated by some unsavory types, singer/bassist Erik Grawsiö has told Metal.de that Nazi ideology is a “stupid idea.”
Released by: Napalm Records
Released Date: April 26th, 2019
Genre: Folk Metal
- Erik Grawsiö / vocals, bass
- Markus Andé / guitars
- Jacob Hallegren / drums
- Hervors arv
- Slaget vid Bråvalla
- Ett sista farväl
- Tvenne drömmar
- Krakes sista strid
- (Don’t Need) Religion
- Day Star – Son of Dawn
Månegarm is a veteran band that knows what it wants, knows what its audience wants, knows how to sate those appetites, and doesn't give two shits about commercial viability