King of Asgard can be counted on to challenge the view of Viking metal. From the way Fi’mbulvintr (2010) melodiously chimes to the blackened folk passages of …to North (2012), you can bet the Swedes usher in versatile metal styles and on their third full-length, too. Translating to “barren,” Karg clings to a darkened bleakness and reminds listeners why KoA sound so unique in the first place.
“The Runes of Hel” is the starting number, but it’s already been released as a music video to show what the album is made of: Composed gutturals, dark guitar riffs and percussion that lurks from deep in the tracks. The following song reinforces these moves; chock full of tremolo-picking, “The Trickster” unloads an understated percussive stomp and a few hollow chants every now and then. And KoA keep the creativity circulating in the approaching tracks.
When “Omma” arrives, it goes from solemn piano strokes to low chants to feverish blast beats before shrinking back in a low pulsed, shaded place. A ways down the record, “Huldran” throws a sharper, black metal edginess throughout, while “Rising” resorts to choppy means to tie in its phrases. A bonus track version of the album ends with a cover of “Total Destruction,” a win for Bathory devotees.
When KoA take different samples from the scope of extreme metal, it’d be dangerous to only force them into the Viking metal bracket, and Karg is no exception.
KoA’s trademark blackened chord progressions stack up around the album’s melodic atmosphere, but you can’t get through this without calling out certain tunes. Bass-prominent tracks, “The Heritage Throne” and “Remnant of the Past” help Karg feel more weighted and contemplative than previous efforts. Even a touch of folk can be detected in the infectious riffs of “The Trickster,” making Karg tasteful enough to appeal to many audiences. Perhaps the most valuable result of Karg is it proving KoA’s style can be counted on for the long haul.
“The Runes Of Hel”/YouTube