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Viking metal can be a curious genre. It may include musically completely different bands and be as various as the difference is between the cheesiness of say Turisas or Ensiferum and the majestic epicness of Bathory up to the black metal aggression of early Enslaved or Helheim. It's only the viking theme in the lyrics what connects these bands. Allegiance is also one of those viking themed Scandinavian troops. But music wise they haven't got much in common with any of these bands I mentioned above. Hmm, maybe there are some similarities in fragments to "Frost" LP, but generally Allegiance is much more aggressive and straight forward, but at the same time melodic and Swedish sounding. "Hymn Till Hangagud" is their debut album from 1996 and I must say it's one of my favourite Swedish albums from that period.
The strength of the album lays in both excellent song writing and the production. Generally Allegiance is very Swedish in their style, but the band managed to bring also some other influences into their music, what in the end makes this album very original and unique.
"Hymn Till Hangagud" kicks off with the riff that is almost close to Kampfar's folky black metal riffing and from that one fragment, Allegiance got my attention. "Höfdingadrapa" is excellent song, it's epic, majestic, but catchy also, with the chorus "Geir fathur Ravners godt" inviting to scream. But then "De Nordiska Lagren" comes with acoustics interludes, some Dissection-esque melodic riffs, there are even silent keyboards hidden behind the guitars... It's another great song, probably even the best on the album, as I love its blend of fairly melodic parts with aggression and fast riffs. "The Third Raven" is even more aggressive, this song really stands similar to what bands like Throne of Ahaz, Sacramentum or Vinterland were doing in those times... and man, it's 4 minutes of pure aggression, but without forgetting about the melodic aspect of Allegiance; just listen to the guitar lead here! These three songs are enough really to understand the strength of Allegiance debut album, luckily for the listener "Hymn Till Hangagud" doesn't end here and brings few more songs.
One of them, titled "Himmelen Rämnar" is another my favourite; it's opened by the acoustic theme and then this catchy mournful melody, which is very much in the style of Dissection's "The Somberlain" album. This is fantastic, mid paced song, and great epic, monumental atmosphere just brings attention fully and convince me these are some of the best tunes the Swedish land has unleashed in the mid 90's. Truly, the album hasn't got anything what I would complain at.
The production is just great, probably one of the best ones to come from Unisound and Dan Swano, at least in this style of metal. Fast fragments sound like thunders roaring in the sky and everything is so clear in the sound, the drums, the vocals... The production definitely makes the songs even more killer, especially that so often the sound kills good music... Here it's not the case; "Hymn Till Hangagud" sounds brilliant. If that's not enough compliments for you, then the front cover looks just fantastic, great idea and design, with these priests hanged on the tree, ravens flying around them (probably looking for some eye balls to eat out) and the angry viking roaring in bloodthirst. Inside of the booklet you'll also find plenty of band photos and lyrics, mainly in Swedish, but those, which are in English I fuckin enjoyed reading! They're great, just take a look on these lines:
"Weak ones- be food to my axe
It´s twin edges thirst for your blood
My winter pale horse grinds down all resist
I ride with the speed of the light..."
"Gods of all things wild
Of storm and warlit sky
Of battles past present and to come
With faith in thee I know I can not die..."
I can't believe how much this band and this album in particular has been clearly forgotten and underestimated nowadays. Seems like there are only few who remember Allegiance, probably mainly due to the Bogge's and Friedrik Andersson's role in Marduk. But trust me, this is brilliant music. Sadly it was released just once, by No Fashion Records, so nowadays this CD is totally unavailable, so this may also be the reason for the underestimation of Allegiance. Maybe it will change one day, maybe someone will re-release it (hopefully on vinyl, just like A Canorous Quintet gets their albums released on LP now), but till then, try to get the first pressing or even mp3 and listen to one of my favourite Swedish albums from the mid 90's.