I will state first and foremost, I really hate listening to this album in the middle of Summer, because it makes me want Winter to come all that faster. It's no secret to anyone who has read my reviews that I am pretty much in the tank for wind-worn, freezing cold Viking metal bands, and King of Asgard is a band that fits squarely into that spot.
On ... to North, the Kings continue on their trek through the bleak, wintry wilderness. There is a more tangible atmosphere on this album. Their first release, Fi'mbulvintr, had a heavier production and song style more rooted in melodic death metal. Amon Amarth comparisons arose, and while I heard the similarity in parts, King of Asgard were a bit more intricate and dynamic in their songwriting. With their sophomore effort, they increase the distance between themselves and their Swedish counterparts, taking a far less chuggy approach and employing the use of open chord riffs. The result lends itself more to bands like Moonsorrow and older Enslaved, but fear not, there are plenty of pounding double bass laden downbeat thrash parts to keep the head banging.
While I definitely enjoy ... to North and there are many catchy riffs and passages, there are a few moments where my attention wanders. I found it a little hard to fully immerse myself in the first few listens. It made me work for it, and that's not always bad, because an album that grows on you gradually is not so easily forgotten.
The essence of ... to North is bare, as it should be. Stripped down and forged into only that which is essential. No flutes, whistles, or accordions... not that those things are bad, they just wouldn't fit. This is pure battle-driven, somewhat melancholy, riff and chord based metal. Outside of the piano into to the title track or the female vocal on The Nine Worlds Burn there isn't much to take away the harshness of these songs. Undeniably well-written and crafted, King of Asgard has solidified themselves among the greats of this genre. About the only issue I had with this release was the sound of the kick drum- it was a bit thin sounding and could have been a bit beefier. But, it's a minor flaw in what is otherwise a solid release.