Release: 13 October 2023
Label: Napalm Records
Varg is a five-member German dark power-/melodic death metal band from Germany and Ewige Wacht (“Eternal Watch”) is their eighth album since they started releasing these in 2007, which is some amazing longevity in this business. “Varg” is Swedish/Old Norwegian for “wolf”, but most fans of J. R. R. Tolkien probably already figured that out, and speaking of Sweden and Norway, this album is heavily focused on Norse mythology with lyrics about Freya, fylgjas, shieldmaidens, Tyr, valkyries, and the rest.
Like their previous album (Das Ende aller Lügen– “The End of all Lies”), this is a two-disc release, but this time the second disc, instead of English versions of the songs, it features all the songs repeated with guest appearances by other artists like Korpiklaani, Nachtblut, Rotting Corpse, and, if you ever wanted to hear Christopher Bowes of Alestorm fame singing in German, here’s your chance.
Though Varg predates Brothers of Metal, the themes and dual vocalists (harsh male, clean female) make it hard to avoid comparison. They’re cut from the same cloth, but Varg isn’t teaching us the mythos, merely celebrating it, and it does a great job. I like the diversity of songs from the sad and angry Weltenfeind (“World Enemy”) and haunting, foreboding Fylgja (“Fylgja”, a spirit joining a person to their fate or fortune, according to Wikipedia), to anthems like Immer Trau (“Always faithful”), Tyr, and Hammer, to the blissful Siegreiches Heer (“Victorious Army”).
Musically, though, the album’s a mixed bag. It’s far less punk and more power than their previous album, and that took some getting used to. The refrains in Tyr, Morgenrot (“Dawn”), and Siegreiches Heer are common-meter, sing-songy, and instantly familiar. It could be argued that this was the point, and it’s par for the course given the Norse theme, but to me, it’s a bit overused and uninspired. It’s a minor criticism that the melody is a little weak in Eisenseite (“Ironside”) and Ewige Wacht, the title track. On the other hand, Schildmaid (“Shieldmaiden”), Fylgja, and the rest are strong and carry the album along. Immer Trau, particularly, has a great and memorable refrain. They all sound big, brash, and amazing. The whole album has a unique and pleasant feel to it.
Their sound is warm, raw, epic, and alive. Immer Trau is a great way to start the album and shows off all the sounds, and ending with Ewige Wacht is genius. The latter goes hard and has some insane intensity, especially at the beginning and end. Schildmaid is fun to sing along and may be the second strongest song of the album, but my personal favorite is Hammer. It goes hard as well, has some impressive guitar licks, disses axes and other weapons, and what’s not to love about hammers? Other bands have made it their whole gimmick.
I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. It’s a pleasant surprise hearing some fresh German takes on tried-and-true themes. Varg’s been producing great music for a long time, and this is a great start in a new direction.
- Immer Treu
- Siegreiches Heer
- Ewige Wacht