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 it’s good!” but to say that someone isn't a dissector isn’t realistic, we just go about in different means. So,it all comes down to whether you’re 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. I’m a splitter which is why I seem to be at odds with most of my lumper peers when it comes to Asguard’s Wikka that has just been re-released for worldwide consumption. The consensus seems to be that
One of the first things that you’ll 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 that’s straight out of Iron Maiden and the band’s 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. It’s an interesting balance that brings together elements of modern power metal with something that’s a bit more aggressive. For instance, The Visions of Dream’s has a catchy lead riff that’s reminiscent of In Flame’s 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 I’m told that this re-release brings together ‘04’s Wikka and ‘98’s In the Darkness of the Night demo, there’s 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 that’s more similar to Insominum or Equilibrium minus the symphonic element. It’s not at all surprising to learn that they were recorded at different times too since the first half’s 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 I’m made to believe) and can only be considered a bonus rather than providing some standout moments.
I wouldn’t 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, they’re not going to blow you away with their originality as this isn’t anything different from what In Flames was doing in ’95 (i.e. piecing together NWOBHM with a light black metal design) but if you’re 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.