Asgard - Ragnarøkkr,
If my wife asks me about a conversation we have had recently, I must confess it is often a struggle to remember what it was about. But, if a band comes onto my radar then somehow it sticks, so as soon as this came through, the synapses started firing and I knew I had reviewed them back in the day. A quick check of the bible (according to both Acid Dragon and Record Collector) which is The Progressive Underground Volume 1 and I can see I reviewed ‘Imago Mundi’ back in 1994, but the brain hadn’t finished yet and a quick check of Vol 3 (out soon) and I can see I also reviewed a cassette of a gig performed in Zwolle at the beginning of 1997 which was sent to me by keyboard player Albert Ambrosi. ‘Imago Mundi’ was the fourth release from the band, but it took until 2000 for the band to release another album, and then nothing.
Fast forward to 2020 and Asgard are back with their sixth album, and although it appears that Ambrosi is the only musician still involved from back in the day, they still have a distinctive sound. They describe themselves as folk/prog/metal, and while that is undoubtedly true, the word they are also missing is “medieval” as there are some definite traits in there as well, particularly in sections such as the opening to “Battle”. They are heavy in a similar manner to recent Galahad, not really a prog metal act but definitely turning up the volume and crunching some very heavy riffs in a manner which is more neo prog than anything else. But sometimes those riffs are just allowed to resonate while there is piano tinkling in behind which gives the band a very different sound. Ambrosi uses a wide selection of different sounds which provide some of the breadth, but it is the use of so many different styles within the songs that allow them to fully spread their wings. Singer Franco Violo is full of emotion, Kikko Rebeschini Sambugaro (drums) and bassist Paolo Scandolo are happy to provide complexity or simplicity, while one gets the impression that guitarist Andrea Gottoli is at his happiest when he is allowed to crunch, although he also provides some lovely restrained lead lines.
I can only hope that this album is the beginning of a revival for Asgard, and they manage to maintain both line-up and enthusiasm and deliver us another album in the near future as opposed to waiting another 20 years. Well worth investigating.