Review: Asgaard “What If…” [WormHoleDeath / Szataniec]

Review: Asgaard “What If…” [WormHoleDeath / Szataniec]

- in Reviews

The legend from the 90s has returned! Polish metal band Asgaard has come back from oblivion with brand new record What if…, which was released digitally through WormHoleDeath Records and physically via small Polish label Szataniec Records. It was at the end of winter, and now, six months have passed, and we can appropriately estimate this controversial record, making a decision rather we love it or rather we stan old doom/gothic Asgaard.

Actually, this band was always in some kind of transformation, all their albums have endured very audible alterations, so, we are dealing with quite a troublesome band, that can’t stay in one place, the world is too big and diverse to stick to just one or two musical genres. Yes, Asgaard is this kind of band that always tries something new and is open-minded to every sort of experimentation. But they chose not to complicate their music or to adorn it with bizarre and dramatic peculiarities. On the contrary, the music now sounds very simplified and relaxed, like fresh and transparent breeze after prolonged drought. But this music isn’t primitive or boringly indolent; it reeks of wet flowers and dusty lanes. It’s absolutely magical, but in a very mundane way, like seeing miracles through the ordinary everyday things. But it is soft and almost pop-oriented, so, without doubt, not everyone will be satisfied with it.

Asgaard started their professional path as doom/gothic metal band in 1994, when this genre blossomed, making a solid statement. After couple of albums in this vein, doom metal side has significantly dimmed, giving way to symphonic side, which was entwined with black metal. And then again, black metal part has diminished, and gothic side was routed to dancy/industrial domain. After the hiatus, Asgaard have resurrected from the ashes and have presented their new album in 2012, submitting the best from all their albums, uniting doom, gothic and black metal under fat pretext of symphonic gossamer. It took a decade for Asgaard to present their new songs, and it was like a real shock, this drastic change of style, because everyone was waiting for some kind of a sequel of the latest album “Stairs to Nowhere”. But we used to these constant changes, accepting their craving for newness and experiments. But now it’s even more difficult to categorize Asgaard into something precise and direct, but definitely we can hear there dark rock, some post-rock elements, gothic vibes on the background and muted symphonic arrangements. So, this time these Polish tricksters have decided to focus on rock side, rather than metal.

What if… has an optimistic spirit and disguised lust for nostalgia, you listen to it, and the happy memories from the past glide through, like a favorite photobook of your adventures long ago forgotten. And the veil of melancholic languor passes through the very heart of this album, slowly infecting your own mood. Sometimes pop rock’s shadow echoes among the emotional and melancholic waves, softening and simplifying the somber mood until all the severity disappears. There’s no place for destructive heaviness in new Asgaard, only calm satisfaction and leisurely yearning. The road to alleviation and simplification has also a symbolical meaning, and the artwork perfectly displays it. With grim mood and depressive thoughts it is also layered with naïve and facile lines, making it childlike and abstract at the same time. But the dark figure on the top of the mountain still causes alarm. It’s interesting to notice that this album equally conveys the airy lightness as well as dismal moodiness. So, it doesn’t matter how positively it sounds at first glance, the soul of this album doesn’t consist only of bright colors and playful sentiments.

The beginning is very melodic and distantly dark with soft and monotonous singing, “Sisyphus” paves the way to other compositions, selecting the general aura. Two songs performed in native language are teetering on the verge of romantic tales – “Sny na Jawie” is almost a ballad with emotional singing and tearful acoustic lines; meanwhile “W Sercu nieswiata” is sad and serious. These songs also come as bonuses with their radio cuts. “Horizon upside down” is focused on hard rock conception, producing primitive but catchy melodies. Pertinent simplicity of “Blind Man’s Buff” also hints on good old gothic rock, just straight back to their roots. The last song “Not ever again!” inclines toward glorious industrial/gothic times, when the keyboards run the show. Maybe it’s due to remarkable diversity and flexibility, but maybe because of the charming etherealness, but these 35 minutes of dark rock coziness fly blazingly fast.

It’s noteworthy to point out that all the musicians are gathered here in Asgaard from the 1990s (Hetzer and Flumen from the very beginning, and Quzarre joined them five years after the formation). So, these dramatic stylistic changes were accepted together, after so many years together they are still on the same wavelength, even within huge radical shifts. Despite slight musical dispersion, the experimental trio has managed to create harmonic integrity, never making the ultimate choice; Asgaard can stay safely on both sides – metal and rock, dark and light, death and life. These guys can play everything, and still they will stay true to themselves.

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