Sometimes I find myself intrigued by albums that are sent to me for review and 'Swords Of Midgard' by 'Ulvedharr' is one of those albums.
Hailing from Clusone (Bergamo), Lombardy, this Italian quartet plays a mix of Death/Thrash Metal and take their musical inspiration from Norse Mythology and the Vikings; not quite what you would expect.
My intrigue was certainly justified as the approach Ulvedharr take to Death/Thrash is interesting and intense but not overworked, full of great riffs, the drum work complemented the guitars perfectly and good vocals, shouty but deep, with a harsh edge to them.
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Prior to 'Swords Of Midgard' the band had a self released EP, 'Viking Tid', in 2012 and all those tracks are also featured on this, their debut full length release.
The opening track, 'Intro' is an intense instrumental of repeat riffs that serves as an extended intro to the up-tempo 'Lindisfarne', a great track, one minute up tempo and thrashy, the next doomy and deathly.
'Odin Father Never Die' is a slower opener, but the pace soon picks up to the best repeat riff of the album and is a big favourite with me for that reason alone. Accompanied by quite simple lyrics, but they don't need to be complex alongside that great riff.
'War Is In The Eyes Of Berserker' has an excellent opening, a catchy head nodder, before the pace kicks up several gears to a high speed thrash fest, another track that I really liked and the bonus of a great solo midway. A drum opener on 'Onward to Valhalla' with pounding riffs and an equally pounding beat.
'Beowulf & Grendel (Part 1)' has a slow, dark, doomy, opener but gathers to a marching pace as this seven and a half minute marathon progresses. The track also features the guest vocals form Lorenzo Marchesi (Folk Stone). 'Ymir Song' has a beautiful, emotive, extended opening, then two minutes in the track picks up speed, with a strong folk edge in places, to this otherwise chugging track and also features towards the latter end a guest vocal appearance from Lisy Stefanoni (Evenoire).
'The Raven's Flag' has a bass led opener that builds and expands out to some great dark, chugging riffs. The final track, another with dark, chugging riffs that pretty much encompass the length of the track, 'Haraldr Hárfagri' features another guest vocalist, Pagan (Furor Gallico). Throughout, the tempo does drop away severely a couple of times lending an interesting, sinister edge to the track.
As far as first releases go 'Swords Of Midgard' is a good one, up-beat and an interesting listen and I hope Ulvedharr on future releases can build on what they have achieved so far.