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The black and red painted pagan metal warriors, Varg, return with their fourth full length release, entitled “Guten Tag”. Gimmicks and appearances aside, Varg's latest offering merges the heaviness and power of pagan metal with the upbeat folkloric anthems of punk acts like Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphy's. While this sounds like a pretty apt description of most folk metal acts, Varg manages to have a similar feel without using folk instruments or wanky keyboard lines.
Varg's strongest element is their ability to merge several genres into something that sounds so similar to other acts yet retains such a strong air of originality. There are a large group of metal heads that believe folk netal has been done to death and has nothing new to offer the metal scene, and to some extent, I can agree that a lot of acts have been becoming more and more stale. Varg's merging of folk-laden punk with pagan metal comes across as a bastardized form of thrashy, catchy folk metal without the folk instruments.
The lead guitar work is the strongest link to folk metal here, which mimic the violin and fiddle patterns utilized on many folk metal albums. Actually the leads range from flowing, Iron Maiden inspired tapping to the Irish jig folk inspired solos, running a pretty large gamut of styles, but even the traditional metal inspired soloing has a folkish air to it. When coupled with the rollicking, power chord driven rhythm lines it makes for a catchy combination. The rhythm lines chug along with palm muted sections and catchy riffs, having a lot in common with groove metal or even a heavier version of punk. The rhythm guitar goes from the punkish grooves into some black metal inspired trem lines, covering a lot of territory and staying surprisingly catchy for the duration. The trem lines on “Was Nicht Darf” retain a certain catchiness, even with the music being extremely thick and heavy during this track while, he pounding, stomping sections like during “Apokalypse” with chunky, chugging palm muting keep the head bobbing.
The drums are fast paced and powerful. Double bass runs, fast paced double kick patterns, rolling fills, it's all here. The drummer has a tendency to go from a double kick pattern into a few seconds of machine gun speed double bass running back into the double kick. The rolls are very tom heavy, while not sounding tribal and the cymbals are constant yet somewhat subdued. The bass is thick and plodding, mirroring the chugging guitars for the most part.
The vocals are pretty much a cross between melodic death metal vocals a la Dark Tranquillity or mid-period In Flames and raspy black metal vocals. The result is a mid range shout with a trailing raspiness which remains quite clear during the performance. The vocals really aren't that special or breathtaking, but they help the band stay in the pagan metal realm a little more. A few deathy, deep sections jump in and out (like the verses on “Horizont”) and break up the one dimensional raspy shout a bit. “A Thousand Eyes” sees Jonne Järvelä, of Korpiklaani fame, doing some guest vocals, lending a little more credo to the folk metal leanings of Varg.
The songs basically sound like a metalized version of Boston flavored punk rock. The guitars are heavier, the vocals are heavier, the drums are heavier, but you can't shake the feeling that Varg should be playing somewhere in an Irish pub. Hell, even “Wieder Mal Verlor...” see the band bringing some guest bagpipes to continue the folkish flare. While the band doesn't readily use folk instruments like violins, fiddles and pan flutes, they are treading a pretty thin line between pagan metal and folk metal. The songs flow and unfold very similar to those of a lot of folk metal acts.
The whole of the album, while a fun listen, is a tad one dimensional. It's cool to hear the lead guitars knocking out some folk lines, but the rhythm section and rhythm guitars keep the same pace for most of the ride, mid paced. The songs are all catchy, but get to be a little much with repeated listens. This is a good performance, but a little diversity might not hurt. The band seems to want to break into the folk metal realms, and their use of bagpipes on “Wieder Mal Verlor...” shows they have the ability to excel at it. If you dig folk metal, check this out. Pagan purists may be turned off by the folk metal leanings here. Highly recommended to those who dig the folk-laden melodies of the Boston punk scene, but want something a little heavier while downing a Guinness.