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Now that I have experienced the entire trilogy, I can't help but find paradoxical qualities in the entirety of Rebellion's ambitious The History of the Vikings saga. It comes off as somewhat safe on an ephemeral level, throwing around more expected Norse buzzwords than a typical Amon Amarth chorus. The devil, however, is invariably in the details, and the ante has cumulatively escalated each time, to the point that Arise sounds like an entirely different act than the Rebellion that brought us the meager Born a Rebel along with the pretentious misstep that was the debut.
Even more confounding is the flabbergasting reality that most of the band, including fucking Uwe Lulis, ditched the band directly succeeding the release of this record; a record that takes the brick and mortar, epigrammatic qualities delivered with zest on Sagas of Iceland and especially Miklagard and manages to broaden in cinematic appeal without sacrificing the blood and soil-stained disposition that Göttlich and Lulis founded the band upon nearly a decade beforehand. Despite retroactively signaling a watershed moment in Rebellion's case, Arise simply deepens the band's entrenched hold on the same compositional palate introduced in earnest on Miklagard, progressing in extremity nearly to the point of a genre paradigm shift. Opener "War" wears its animosity on its sleeve for sure, but once the tremolo-underpinned verses barge in and rip the floorboards out from underneath the listener, the experience takes on an even more oppressive disposition that borders on modern death metal, of all things.
Speaking of the massive and monolithic, I almost wonder how much of Arise's bodycount Simone Wenzel is responsible for. I only bring this up because many of these riffs embody a more cold-cocked, haymaker allure that doesn't necessarily gel with Lulis' speed metal origins. The belabored balance between piercing pinch-harmonics, swinging powerchords and multi-tracked choruses brings to life tracks like "Prelude" and "Asgard," while the band conversely sticks their collective neck out by interjecting the piano-driven, forlorn title track immediately after the masticating opener. It should fall flat, but once one becomes privy with the procession in its entirety, the narrative allure ultimately begets any surface tension birthed by tonal incongruity.
I had a real treat following Seifert's chronicle here, and the story comes to a resplendent, climactic quasi-encore with the ambitious "Thor," which rides out on a convincing orchestral flourish that is worthy of any epic film soundtrack. The keyboards on the earlier albums were well-placed, but were still obviously synthesizers. "Thor" is just something else entirely, giving guest musician Malte Rathke one hell of a shot at the spotlight, an opportunity he goes straight for the jugular with by programming a grand intermission that Rebellion had never even come close to experimenting with in the past. While the album could have conceivably ended right there, the quality shows no premature sign of decay all of the way through the final plate-shifting reverberation of "Einherjar."
When viewed as a shapshot of sorts, Lulis sort of got the last laugh over Boltendahl here, as Arise wipes the battlefield with Grave Digger's output from the same year (Ballads of a Hangman) and also edges out said band's attempt at the same subject matter that led to Lulis' ejection way back in 2000 (Clash of the Gods). Seifert is patently inhuman here, his fifth-of-gravel a day bellows more caustic and masculine than even Göttlich's beard. He maintains just enough melody in his timbre to deliver the comet-trailed choruses, but I always turn to Rebellion for a good Gungnir thrust to the gut anyway, and holy shit does Arise deliver this and more. Rebellion's finest hour, and a bittersweet finale for a lineup that had the potential to continue down such an illustrious path.
Rebellion guitarist Uwe Lulis has led an illustrious career in the metal scene and is renown as one of the more popular and prominent metal guitarists around today. Beginning his journey with Digger in the late 80’s, and then the short lived Hawaii after the demise of Digger; Lulis stayed on with vocalist Chris Boltendahl and the resurrection of Grave Digger. Lulis would play a huge part in Grave Digger’s re-emergence in the 90’s, playing on the band’s most well known and successful albums. Lulis then left the band in 2000 and just a year later formed power metal band Rebellion with ex-Grave Digger bassist, Tomi Göttlich.
Working the same kind of formula from when Lulis was with Grave Digger, the first release for Rebellion was a disappointing conceptual album based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. ‘Born a Rebel’ followed in 2003 and was completely different from their first release, being a lot harder and stronger and a true heavy metal album.
Then in 2005, Rebellion found a winning combination when Lulis would write another conceptual piece, a trilogy about the Vikings and Norse Mythology. The first two albums of this trilogy have received great acclaim, particularly the second entitled ‘Miklagard’; which was considered a breakthrough album for the band. It was also my #1 best album of 2007, beating out Helloween’s ‘Gambling With The Devil’ and Nightwish’s ‘Dark Passion Play’ for the top spot.
Writing about Vikings and Norse Mythology, the music which accompanies the three albums is bombarding fantasy power metal, but with a harder, darker edge and no cheese; ala Manowar and early Cryonic Temple. Incorporating a Scandinavian metal feel with their music, the Vikings trilogy is an extraordinary fighting musical journey of the captivating history of Norse Mythology.
The 3rd and final disc in the series is called ‘Arise: From Ginnungagap to Ragnarok – The History of The Vikings Vol. III’, very lengthy for a metal album title but who’s really nitpicking here. For those not familiar with Norse Mythology and the reference of the two names in the title, I urge you to check out Wikipedia for more information.
“War” is the fierce and speedy opener which sets the fiery atmosphere for the remainder of the album, and also beginning the story for the final climatic chapter of this ancient trilogy. Part way through the CD we get to arguably one of the best tracks on the album, “Odin”. The track is quite bombastic with a thunderous galloping beat and riff, a true power metal song if there ever was one. The raspy and gruff vocals of Michael Seifert, who is similar in style to Chris Boltendahl, strikes out with power and authority; much like those proud sword-wielding Vikings in these mythological tales.
The CD rages on with more top tracks including the 9 minute epic metal hymn “Thor”, which builds slowly but rises to a mighty orchestral finish. The aggression on the album heats up with the two tracks “Evil” and “Loki”, with “Evil” containing a huge blasting beat with tons of speed and grating vocals from Seifert; while “Loki” is hard as hell with sweeping fast riffs to get your head banging. “Prelude” is another standout track, both heavy and melodic; again the aggressive riffs the killer, with a wicked solo in the middle to boot. Other tracks worth mentioning is the melodic and catchy “Arise” and the mid-paced “Runes”, with Seifert holding his own with a great emotional performance.
With the trilogy now at its end, I felt that ‘Arise’ continued the quality and direction of the previous two albums exceptionally well and overall is a very solid release with plenty of power, aggression and speed. I would say that ‘Arise’ does holds its own again the super impressive ‘Miklagard’, but is slightly down a notch in terms of catchiness. Nevertheless, the album still kicks ass and should be highly appealing and swiftly sort after by Rebellion and Grave Digger fans alike; and also fans of epic/power metal should be taking a big interest in it too.
The Viking trilogy has been the golden tressure in Rebellion’s discography thus far and it will be very interesting to see just where they go from here now that the 3-part concept has drawn to a close. Whatever they do, the metal world will be watching and waiting...
Originally written for www.themetalforge.com
After a great little EP, the band finally released the third and last part of their Viking trilogy one month later. This album is a rebirth of the style of the band's first opus magnum and is by far better than the previous second part but not as good as the first one.
The album is quite diversified and offers anything from straight and pitiless killers to rather calm and experimental songs. "War" is for example a straight and yet diversified opener with acoustic parts, drum brakes and a dark chorus that doesn't need any introduction. I think that this is a quite original and heavy way to open an album.
On the other hand, there is the rather calm "Thor" that is consistently building up a dark atmosphere with many small changes in style that are difficult to approach but very interesting to discover. The very epic and atmospheric album closer "Einherjar" is rather calm and atmospheric but a very intense experience and would even have been a masterpiece on the first part of the trilogy and I think that the song fulfills its expectations as very last part of a finally stunning and interesting trilogy.
The only thing that rates this album a little bit down is the fact that some rather repetitive and faceless heavy songs have made it on the album that remind of the ordinary riff attacks of some parts of the last record. "Asgard" is fast and heavy but has nothing memorable as well as the short and sweet "Bolverk". But this kind of songs are finally an exception on the album and don't disturb the pleasure of listening to this record. What I am also a little bit missing on this record is a truly catchy chorus but as the songs are mostly quite diversified, it is acceptable that the sing along factor has heavily gone down in comparison to the two previous albums.
Some songs are therefore able to unite the epic diversity and heavy patterns as the melodic and epic title track "Arise" which is one of my favourite songs of the record or "Runes" which has the typical trademarks and is simply very solid by growing more and more every time I listen to it.
To sum it up, this album is a great rebirth and a part of two or three exceptions as strong as the first part of the trilogy and easily better than many outputs of the uncountable Viking Metal bands. This album is surely one of the absolute highlights of the year 2009.
The History of the Vikings trilogy finally draws to an end in the form of the mouthful Arise: From Ginnungagap to Ragnarok, and it is a solid conclusion from one of the better aggressive power metal bands active today, Rebellion. The Germans have yet to really falter with an album, and their approach should appeal to fans of Grave Digger, Iron Savior, and Paragon as they use heavier vocals than many of their peers.
In fact, the vocals border on death metal in opening track "War", a punishing anthem of glorious power riffing with some nice choral effects and leads. It creates a great contrast with "Arise", which begins with pianos and picks up into a memorable melodic hook. "Asgard" punches ahead with a burly mid-paced riff over some chugging and manly clean vocals, while "Odin" rolls across the Norse mythscape like a melodic tank in a cloud of ravens. There are a dozen tracks here on Arise, and all of them have simple, single word titles. In addition to the strong opening chunk of the album, I enjoyed the battery of "Bolverk", the thrashing "Evil" and the epic closing track "Einherjer".
I'm going to re-iterate that the conceptual nature of the album and the vocals really come off like a heavier sister to Grave Digger (two of the members used to be in that band, of course). The riffs are often a little more thrash, and this is the heaviest output yet from Rebellion. There are some truly amazing moments on the album that shine like a beacon to the ailing crop of subpar power metal coming from Europe. I may not have enjoyed this so much as Ballad of a Hangman, but it's a strong effort that should catapult this band into the playlists of many new power metal fans, and possibly fans of the more generic side of Viking-themed metal (Amon Amarth, etc.)
One look at Rebellion's last.fm page should reveal most of what you need to know about this German heavy/power metal band. Similar acts including Mystic Prophecy, Stormwarrior, Paragon, Wizard and Metalium suggest that Rebellion are as to the German metal scene as one foot slogger was to the massive German army of World War II - little of individuality, one of many, in a powerful collective. This glance however doesn't reveal that "Arise: From Ginnungagap to Ragnarok - History of the Vikings, Vol. III" is the final part of the band's trilogy relating to the history of everyone's favourite ancestors, the Vikings, and is also infact a better album than much of what I've heard from many of their teutonic Brüder aus metal.
This is my first experience of Rebellion but the sound can be succinctly described as sitting as the crossroads between a bass-heavy Iced Earth mixed with some of the stomp of Amon Amarth and your typical German metallic glory. Rebellion were actually formed following the departure of Uwe Lulis and Tomi Göttlich from Grave Digger, though thankfully there is more bite to be found here than in their previous counterparts. "Runes" is the simple example to demonstrate the Rebellion template on "Arise..."; galloping and glorious with a confident singer in Michael Seifert often found to be leading the procession in his delivery of Maiden-esque chorusses sandwiched in between pleasantly good, if non-descript, heavy/power metal riffs. Unlike recent albums such as Mystic Prophecy and Narnia's, Rebellion score greater points simply for the fact their rhythmic riffs are a pleasant enough listen for a non-German rather than the cack-handed boring attempts at song-writing those other bands (as two examples of many) provide for us.
As if you were waiting for it, its not total patch jacket beer majesty that I'm sure many others will review "Arise" as. At the peak of each song the feeling of de javu is over-whelming. I'm sure the chorus' of "Odin" and "Runes" are the same and in a more general sense, the chest-out manliness (predominantly through the lyrics) throughout can be both admired and chuckled at, depending on your inclination towards such things.
At times like this I wish I was German and got their extreme heavy metal passion, just to see if I would appreciate "Arise..." anymore. Though I'm not sure if being English is any better these days I'll have to settle for what I've got and tell you that "Arise..." is good; better than most in it's field in fact but not likely to make you complete that long-awaited dream move to the Fatherland.
Originally written for Rockfreaks.net
Rebellion is sounding a lot heavier on their new album and this is quite apparent on the opening track, War, a solid song that shows the band channeling fellow Viking metalers, Amon Amarth. War is full of thick riffs, double bass drumming and a bass line that sounds like it’s riding the drums into battle. Michael Seifert vocals are quite impressive as he switches between his usual style and a heavy growl. While the song is very satisfying, I was a little worried that this extra heavy sounding Rebellion was here to stay. However, the following track, Arise eased my concern. This track has a very catchy traditional metal sound and has a nice piano line underneath it all that adds an epic feel. These two opening tracks sum up the album’s intentions pretty well, and what we get from the rest of the songs is a series of hits and misses.
Songs three to six, Asgard, Odin, Runes, and Bolverk are solid tracks, but all have some problems. Asgard is another heavy slab of thick metal, but suffers from some very typical rhythmic riffing and lead guitar sounds. Odin and Runes both sport great choruses, but the verses seem to be going through the motions. Bolverk is yet another heavy hitter but is just not very memorable. Track seven, Thor, is an excellent mid tempo epic where Michael Seifert flexes his vocal skills. Seifert brings a theatrical element to the track that never comes off cheesy. In comparison, the orchestration at the end of the song is never too bombastic or overdone. The following two tracks, Evil, Loki, are pretty much in the same realm as Bolverk. They are very heavy and up-tempo, but ultimately don’t really leave much of an impression. Track 10, Prelude is a solid song that has some nice heavy Judas Priest riffing. The final two tracks, Ragnaroek and Einherjar are masterful epics that bring this album to an amazing close. Ragnaroek has a beautiful acoustic intro, which then leads into heavy epic trash metal with some great lead guitar work and vocals. Einherjar continues the style of Ragnaroek perfectly and has an infectious sing along chorus.
The production of the album is great and everyone is in top form, especially Michael. I do get a feeling that the band might be conforming to some modern day metal standards in terms of their sonic presentation. Despite some of the problems I may have with that, they pull it off well. The songs: War, Arise, Thor, Ragnaroek, Prelude, and Einherjar are top notch Rebellion, and a must have for any metal fan!