by Ryan Meehan
King of Asgard took form in 2008 by founder Karl Beckman, when he teamed up with long time fellow worker, Karsten Larsson, whom he had previously performed with in the well-known Viking horde Mithotyn. The duo worked on re-discovering their roots, thereby establishing the foundation of King of Asgard, both musically as well as in the Norse heritage lyrical approach. In January 2009, the first recording was done, resulting in the demo “Prince of Märings”, a seven track disc recorded in Lotang studio. In November the same year, Jonas Albrektsson (ex-Thy Primordial) joined King of Asgard. The three piece now took serious form, meanwhile the demo recording was well received and caught the interest of metal labels, particularly Metal Blade Records. By December of 2009, the band had signed a deal with Metal Blade. Studio time at Sonic Train Studios in Varberg, Sweden was booked and in March 2010, the debut album was recorded with engineer Andy LaRocque. King of Asgard tracked thirteen songs of folk-based blackened death metal, reminiscent of times of old. During the summer, a video was shot for the album opener “Einhärjar”, produced by Rickard Moneus from the production company 1897 (www.1897.se). King of Asgard‘s debut album, “Fi’mbulvintr,” was released in August of 2010 and made an astonishing impact on the scene. Still, the band was in need of a second guitarist for future live events. Lars Tängmark was hired for the job in August of 2010. King of Asgard finally became active as a live performing act and played a bunch of successful festivals and club shows throughout 2010 and 2011. In early 2012, King of Asgard finished the songwriting for their second album, “…to North,” and returned to Sonic Train Studios in April, again with Andy LaRocque at the helm. Another video was released in May of 2012, once again with producer Rickard Moneus. On the 22nd of July, 2014, King of Asgard will release their 3rd full-length “Karg.” This is the band’s third time recording with Andy LaRocque at Sonic Train Studios. Karl Beckman comments: “After well over a year of intensive writing, we finally reached the point where everything is put into finish. When countless hours of hard work and careful consideration has been completed. This completion, being our third album which at an early stage was titled to “Karg”, in English, “Barren”. A word which later on came to form the atmosphere of the whole album and a sense that meanders through more or less all the material. It’s darker, it is harsher, and more stripped down than our previous releases. More mature, precise and well thought out. A challenge both for us as well as for the observer. Lyrically, we have come closer to our own immediate surrounding and ancestral heritage, based on old legends and tales from our home region, a tribute to our fair and historical countryside. Yet again everything was recorded and mixed in Sonic Train Studios with Andy LaRocque at the helm assisted by Olof Berggren. Even in the phase of recording we used the word Karg as a guideline… and thus, it is upon thee.” Upon thee indeed, as King of Asgard vocalist Karl Beckman is our guest today in 7 questions. RM: When was the moment that you realized the material for the new album was finished and there was no more fine-tuning or polishing to be done? Was there an overall sense of relief for you guys when it was finally completed; and were you eager to move on to your next task?
KB: We worked on the songwriting about a year for this record. The last song was finished just a few weeks before entering Sonic Train Studios, but nothing is done until it’s on the master tape. We constantly change things during the recording, things that popped up like background choir, guitars in different harmonies and stuff like that. Then we have the mixing procedure which takes a lot of time and energy to get everything right. So the final moment was when Andy sent us the last master and there were no more changes to be done. Yeah, it was a great relief and satisfaction to finally listen to the fruit of all our hard work. Our next task will be promoting the album as a prior, but I never stop writing music so I already have a couple of killer riffs lying in the drawer… 😉
RM: What’s the best part about working with Andy LaRocque as a producer; and musically how is he able to get the most out of you and your band?
KB: Andy is a professional musician and has tons of experience in his baggage regarding songwriting and recording, so having him as our studio tech and co-producer is like a dream. This is the third time we worked with him, so he knows what we want and we know how he works around the studio. He always has a positive attitude and that helps a lot to get the creativity flowing and the eager to perform a little bit better.
RM: Do you ever write a certain riff or vocal hook that reminds you of your work with Karsten in Mithotyn and think “This isn’t what we’re trying to do with King of Asgard”? How have you two been able to find a good balance between pulling from the desirable elements from that project and still creating something fresh with KOA?
KB: Actually there is one riff that I wrote for Mithotyn that ended up on our first born, Fi’mbulvintr. The opening riff on “The Last Journey” was written a couple of month after the last M record was made. It followed me over the years and when Karsten agreed to start playing with me again I brought it up and made a Mithotyn-ich song with it. ‘Cause that was our first thought, to continue where M ended and go back to our roots. As you know later on Jonas joined the band and the music took a new turn. We started to swerve from our previous course and looked at what we really liked about the mid-90s black-Viking metal, and it’s then KoA started to take its current form. Harsher and rawer with more riff-based melodies. We have a guideline when we make our music. Dull and melancholy. Works just zuper!
RM: Are your lyrics influenced by true stories from history, or are you more of a vocalist that writes about hypothetical scenarios? From a lyrical perspective, which song do you think is the darkest track on the record?
KB: Actually almost all of the lyrics are written by Jonas and Lars on KARG. I only had some ideas for themes this time. I’m more of a musical writer than a lyrical. Mainly we write about old Asa related sagas and local tales from the same time era. For example: The Runes of Hel is about the freezing hell that the Vikings were scared of. They hated the cold, therefore hell in the Asa mythology is cold instead of hot as it is in the Christian faith. And some lyrics are simply fictional stories.
There are quite a lot of dark songs on the album. One of the darkest track must be OMMA. Omma – (the queen of mist), an enchanted queen who, is said, lived during the pre-Christian times on “Omberg”; Omberg being a mountain close to where we live and also the mountain depicted on the album cover. Omma is mentioned in several series of stories covering the surrounding countryside and she’s part in many myths and legends covering this particular mountain as well as mentioned/referenced in Norse Mythology. This is our story.
RM: What changes have you made to your writing process since the 2012 release of “…To North”? Do you feel that in the two year period since that release you have matured more as a band than you did in the space between “Fi’mbulvintr” and “…To North”? KB: KARG is a bit darker and rawer than both Fi’mbulvintr and …To North. Mainly because the style of riffing that I mentioned earlier. Lyrically it’s about the same as on …To North. Yeah, we have definitely matured as a band over the last two years. The songs have a more serious approach in general now than before. But old KoA fans will still recognize our sound and style, no doubt about that.
RM: As a guitarist, how much of the band’s signature sound is dependent on the tone that you put onto a record? What is your setup when it comes to guitars and amplification?
KB: We are a riff based band, so the guitar sound is a big deal for me/us. On Fi’mbulvintr and …To North we used a hybrid amp with a tube power amp. ( not mention any names, but it contains the number six 😉 ) For KARG we used an all-tube amp with a known character and a diamond plate front. And we also used a baritone guitar with active pickups instead of a standard scale Les Paul this time. A baritone guitar has one inch longer neck and gives a better punch as we lowered the tuning two steps more than before.
RM: How would you best describe the King of Asgard live experience? What bands from other metal subgenres do you think you are best paired with when it comes to touring?
KB: I would see King of Asgard as a really powerful and intense live experience. A lot of nerve and full force, nothing fun, just plain harshness. That’s the tools we got to work with and try to deliver. Hmmm, what other genres are there that could go along with us? No idea, maybe our fellow friends, Odin-praising doomsters Ocean Chief. Slow is the whole of the law… if you ask them, haha. Wardruna or Byrdi could work as well, ambient Nordic darkness.
RM: What’s the biggest misconception American heavy metal fans have about Swedish metal and the bands that perform it? Who would you consider to be your favorite American heavy metal band?
KB: I really have no idea to be honest. Funny question however. 😉 My favorite American metal band would be Pantera I think. Saw and heard them for the first time at a gig in Gothenburg -91 along with Judas Priest. Damn that was a good show.
RM: What’s up next for King of Asgard in the remainder of 2014 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about? KB: Right now it’s all about promoting KARG with all that implies. We also have a video for the song The Runes of Hel in the making. I think we’ll have it ready for the release of the album. Hopefully…
Official Website: http://www.kingofasgard.com/
Kings of Asgard on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/kingofasgard
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