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(This Dark Reign)

Odd one this. Wikka is the international release of Asguards 2004 EP on Bloodhead Productions of the same name with some demo material thrown in. All this in preparation of their forthcoming Dreamslave effort. Hailing from Belarus, Asguard are essentially a black metal band but also have a whole bunch of other influences thrown in, namely NWOBHM, thrash, Viking/Pagan power metal, melodic death metal, and a sort of guitar solo virtuoso solo maven sidebar. A sort of raw, less silky Children of Bodom comes to mind, so take that as good bad.

The solo overkill on the album will either entertain or annoy as its delivered in spades right from the opening instrumental flourish of the title track. Its followed by a sort of thrash based/pagan jaunt of The Vision of Dream and the black metal Viking romp of the Mithotyn-ish The Black Wandering of Death-Vision 1. Both provide a pretty entertaining mish mash of styles delivered with enough skill and bravado to make it enjoyable and essentially lay the template for the rest of the album, even if heavy on the solo work. The Black Wandering of Death-Vision 2 and The Master of Everything are more straight up, rockin tunes with less tangible pagan elements but like ringing in your ears, the solo work is just kind of perpetually there, not really serving much purpose other than showing you that Andrey Tselobenok and Oleg Maslakov can indeed play classically inspired solos.

The windswept acoustic spoken (Lovecraftian) word The Ancient Track is rather needless other than trying the gloss the album with a faux black metal sense of evil grandeur. Doomed is a slower track that lacks the prior materials energy despite the presence of the now familiar continual squeal of the guitars. A cover of Judas Priests Leather Rebel flaunts Asguards NWOBHM lean while An Eternity takes an eternity to again emphasis yet more twiddly guitar work. Shame on This Dark Reign for nor including more demo details, but even without track names, the material is still the same style, with the same sort of bouncy guitar work.

Overall, an interesting Eastern European release with some promise and a definitely some skill, even if it is overplayed. However, Asguard need to focus a little more on overall song writing rather than flashy solo window dressing, as a lot of it ultimately comes across as rather egotistical, despite their talent.
[Erik Thomas]

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