Press » WIKKA - Review in "Scene It All"

Asguard - Wikka - 2005

Whether you vehemently protest those that do or believe that it should never exist in the first place, we all unconsciously categorize bands. Excessive genre classification is somewhat looked down upon and met with cries of, Man! Who cares where the music fits as long as its good! but to say that someone isn't a dissector isnt realistic, we just go about in different means. So,it all comes down to whether youre a splitter or a lumper. Splitters hear a band and have to stick them in a minute subgenre that has strict criteria while lumpers sweep bands under their very base classification and leave it at that. Im a splitter which is why I seem to be at odds with most of my lumper peers when it comes to Asguards Wikka that has just been re-released for worldwide consumption. The consensus seems to be that Russias Asguard is a black metal band but I just dont hear it. Outside of a few blast beats and the vocals that can go that familiar screechy route, theres not a whole lot of black metal here unless you consider Arsis and Epoch of Unlight part of the genre as well. Instead, Wikka is a melodic death album that draws heavily from NWOBHM with light touches of viking/pagan metal along the way.

One of the first things that youll notice about Wikka is the fleet guitar work showcased on the opening instrumental. It steps deep into, dare I say, power metal territory with its virtuosity and overall compositional design. It actually intros the album quite well since the next track kicks in with a galloping bass line thats straight out of Iron Maiden and the bands modus operandi becomes clear; take a strong Judas Priest/Iron Maiden influence and tweak it just enough with blackened, sometimes double tracked Glenn Benton style, vocals and busier drums. Its an interesting balance that brings together elements of modern power metal with something thats a bit more aggressive. For instance, The Visions of Dreams has a catchy lead riff thats reminiscent of In Flames Artifacts of the Black Rain and moves in much the same way, only passing on the classical-esque bridges for a blast beat driven explosive chorus. Most of the first half moves in the same fashion until you get to the almost funeral doom of The Ancient Track that brings in swirling atmospheric winds, arpeggiated acoustic guitars, and deep buried growls. There the album takes a turn.

While Im told that this re-release brings together 04s Wikka and 98s In the Darkness of the Night demo, theres actually three eras of the band represented here. The first half of Wikka is purely NWOBHM derived complete with intricate guitar lines and galloping bass while the second half switches up to a deeper vox and an overall design thats more similar to Insominum or Equilibrium minus the symphonic element. Its not at all surprising to learn that they were recorded at different times too since the first halfs guitars sound weak along with some bad digital drum replacement and the second beefs the guitars back up along with stronger vocal and drum mixing. The tacked on demo is extremely raw sounding (even remixed as Im made to believe) and can only be considered a bonus rather than providing some standout moments.

I wouldnt call Wikka an essential buy by any means, it seems like it got this wider release in anticipation of their new album that should be on the way soon, but it does have a few good moments of catchy leads, fast riffs, and demonic vocals. The production on the first four tracks is rather off putting and to be honest, theyre not going to blow you away with their originality as this isnt anything different from what In Flames was doing in 95 (i.e. piecing together NWOBHM with a light black metal design) but if youre into this shreddier side of extreme music then you may want to give this a peak. I look for this band to do some interesting stuff in the future since Wikka, to me, shows them at a transitional stage where they are still trying to find their exact sound as the markedly different first and second half points to. Good but not necessary, at least not yet.

posted on
04/20/05 - by Ian

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