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Pagan metalcore? - 20%

Zodijackyl, January 17th, 2014

Varg is a "pagan metal" band with an ideology that goes as deep as bumper stickers. This is face-painted metalcore, a mix of mid-2000s Soilwork production and playing with upbeat pop-punk melodies. The vocalist rasps through the whole album, so the melodic hooks are entirely on the guitars, who infuse a lot of folky melodies into a Reroute-era In Flames style with a bit of the melodic lead work of As I Lay Dying. There's even some new In Flames-worship later on the album in which the vocalist slips from his rasp into the awful half-singing/half-shrieking croon of recent Anders Friden with a bit of singing. The heavier side is like early-mid 2000s European melodic groove metal - a bit of old Gothenburg melodeath and a lot of overlap with metalcore, minus the sung choruses and breakdowns. The funny thing is, this album has breakdowns - lightweight ones at that, as beyond the harsh vocals and thick production, this music is as heavy as pop punk, and it even has a striking resemblance to the celtic folk-punk stylings of bands like Dropkick Murphy's. It's metalcore with pop-punk instead of hardcore, and lots of really cheesy folk melodies - the type of modern pop metal with a nod to extremity while being very tame itself. The artwork has the same look as Caliban's "The Awakening" - no coincidence for cookie-cutter German pop metalcore.

The puzzling piece here is that the band's aesthetics and marketing are nods to pagan and black metal aesthetics, yet the music is happy-sounding gothencore and the lyrics are angsty and repetitive anti-establishment crap with some mentions of fire and spirits and wolves mixed in. They're covered in red paint in every picture, they wear their own shirts with Olde English lettering and German-looking eagles, and they use a bunch of folk/pagan imagery and symbols. They're just slapping some folk metal bumper stickers on bland metalcore/hard rock, as shallow and uninteresting as it gets on either the metalcore or the pagan side.

Recommended if you think you hate metalcore but love folk metal bands with accordions and bagpipes.