Asguard, "Black Fire Land"
Asguard's Black Fire Land seems like something that surely comes to America from the frozen tundra of the Scandinavian countryside. The album is filled with blackened death metal vocal assaults and so many melodic leads, fills, riffs, and melodies that it's almost mind-boggling. Taking a page or two from Children of Bodom's discography, and utilizing the black elements that made Dimmu Borgir's early catalogue melodic yet brutal, Asguard might surprise most metalheads by hailing from Belarus, one of the handful of satellite states created upon the Soviet Union's collapse in the early 90s.
Originally released in their homeland in 2003, Black Fire Land (and the rest of the band's catalogue) sees release stateside now through California's This Dark Reign label. I've never heard of the label before, but after this, it's on my list of things to check out.
Asguard combines elements of melody found in Iron Maiden, Bodom, and Kalmah and combines them with the speed, intensity, and harsh vocals of black metal with surprising success. Lying somewhere between older In Flames and Dimmu Borgir, Asguard's sound will find a welcome home among those who love the Finnish metal scene. Die-hard black metal fans might find the melody Asguard possesses a bit too much, but rest assured the vocals never resort to melodic singing and the rhythms never rely on pit-friendly breakdowns (a definite plus in the age of metalcore's generally lackluster inspiration). Ultimately, Black Fire Land is full of memorable melodies and songs, yielding a positive (and reoccurring) listen. Throw in a killer song from an earlier demo and a spot-on Manowar cover (albeit in blackened form), and This Dark Reign and Asguard both have a solid, refreshing winner on their hands.
Bloody Hate...And The Souls of Dead Dreams