KARMANJAKA “Gates of Muspel”

By Dr. Abner Mality

There’s no shortage of bands inspired by Norse mythology...in fact, there’s a glut of them...but when the subject is handled well both musically and lyrically, it can still work. KARMANJAKA from the far North of Sweden handled it well. Names like ENSLAVED and EINHERJAR come to mind when listening to “Gates of Muspel” and those are powerful names to conjure with.

This band has a progressive/aggressive approach to their music. It’s a strong combination of melodic black and death metal elements but the songs come across like journeys over the hills and valleys of a mythic landscape. The title track erupts with a furious whirlwind of black metal ferocity before morphing into something still aggressive but a bit more thoughtful. One thing’s for sure, these guys didn’t overproduce the record. It has a warm, natural sound right down to the snappy analog drums. Even ENSLAVED sometimes sounds overproduced and digital, but KARMANJAKA avoid this trap while providing suprises for listeners.

“Ancient Aeons” is another attack of progressive black metal with great technical riffs while “Draug” starts with Viking horns and battering drums before going somewhere dark and heavy and unexpectedly baroque. “Sorcerer King” keeps the speed and heaviness and comes close to going off the rails with frantic energy and time changes but not quite. The real eye-opener is “Amongst The Waves”, which has such a dreamy, majestic flow to it, with great bluesy leads...this is truly a song to equal the best of ENSLAVED.

With “Anti-Goddess”, the band stumbles a bit, as this sounds like a bit of a disjointed mess, but they snap right back into shape with another majestic tune, “Sculpting The Heavens” that brings a strong folk metal feel. The album ends with the epic “Fenrir” and what a riff machine this is, constantly shifting and throwing something new at the listener but never losing its flow.

KARMANJAKA is a new force to reckon with in the world of black and Viking metal and the bigger labels would be well advised to enlist these Norse warriors in future campaigns.