29 November 2013
by Pete Long
It mightn’t be quite as popular as the current wave of atmospheric black metal, but there’s no shortage of bands playing various black and folk metal tributes to Odin and chums. Germany’s Black Messiah have been at that game for two decades now, without ever really placing themselves in the league of heavyweights like Falkenbach and Moonsorrow.
This album is fun. That isn’t entirely obvious from the opener ‘Symphonia Pagana’ – an audition for the soundtrack of the next Conan movie if you ever heard one – but just wait for the real opener of ‘In The Name Of Ancient Gods’. There is a jaunty triumphalism to it that is reminiscent of Ensiferum in all the right ways, mixed up with riffs that are owe a lot to old school black metal. ‘Jotunheim’ is much the same except with added catchy symphonic keys. Then there’s ‘Wildsau’, which features the most original element on the album; frontman Zagan’s violin. It’s not what many might think of as Viking – it’s more Gogol Bordello than anything else – but to drag out that word again, its fun.
‘Edmund von Ostanglien’ has that joyous triumphant feel again, in spades, with some really catchy guitar melodies and clean vocals. It seems oddly cheerful for a song named after an Anglo-Saxon martyr, but there we go. ‘Nidhogg’ shows a grittier side, at least until Zagan breaks out a violin solo. The album’s title track is sadly a six minute long acoustic number with vaguely hymnal qualities. It feels like a very earnest and sober guy trying to break up a good house party.
Black Messiah won’t be joining Falkenbach at the top table in Valhalla anytime soon. There’s simply not enough “wow” moments. What Black Messiah have instead is a well-crafted and entertaining example of the genre, with a few original touches. At fifty minutes, it might be a little long for what it is, but Heimweh is a very entertaining use of that time.
Sounds Like: A more restrained version of Ensiferum. With a violin.
Standout Tracks: Jotunheim, Wildsau, Edmund von Ostanglien.