Black Messiah - Of Myths And Legends
AFM Records
Pagan and Viking Folk Metal with Black roots
11 songs (42:19)
Release year: 2006
Black Messiah, AFM Records
Reviewed by Ross
Album of the month
Founded in 1992, as an ‘Old School’ Black Metal band Black Messiah, founding member Zagan has, over time, carefully crafted and integrated Pagan and Viking Folk style music with Black Metal. Their extremely hard to find 1995 Demo, which, I am assured though I have not heard it, is pure Black Metal. You can tell in their 1998 album Sceptre Of Black Knowledge that influences from Pagan and Viking Folk are entering their music. During these early years there was much turmoil in the band with changing band members and a break from their record label, which presumably involved some legal wrangles. Eventually in 2000 using their own money for studio time the band recorded a 3 track Demo featuring the songs - Blutsbruder, Christenfeind which although had Black undertones were more Folk with more melodic guitaring and included violin and mandolin parts; My Way To Asgaard was more ‘Old School’ Black Metal. Zagan was all for taking the band on tour but others wanted to keep Black Messiah a Studio Project. This caused the second almost dissolution of the band. With Black Messial being all but a band in name only, Zagan composed more songs, enough for a full album, including the three from the Demo. He then gathered together like minded musicians and recorded their 2005 album Oath Of A Warrior which was released on the Einheit Produktionen record label. Again, this was a mix of Black Metal liberally laced with Pagan and Viking Folk influences and could be classed as the defining point in which Black Messiah changed their direction from Black Metal to Pagan and Viking Folk Metal. After receiving excellent reviews for Oath Of A Warrior, Black Messiah were signed to AFM Records, entered the studio between February and July 2006 and recorded Of Myths And Legends which was released on 17 November 2006. And that is us up to date on the history of and their transmogrification from Black to Pagan and Viking Folk Metal.

If Oath Of A Warrior defined their change in musical direction then Of Myths And Legends has taken them a long way down their chosen path. Throughout the album you definitely get the atmosphere of ancient times of hard days sailing on your way to new lands for some plundering and pillaging, there is even a song in honour of probably the most famous Viking of them all Erik The Red - Erik, Der Rote. But, I’m getting ahead of myself here. The band at the time of recording were; Zagan on vocals, guitar, violin and mandolin; Hrym on keys and synth; Zoran and Meldric on guitars; Njörd on bass guitar and Surther on drums. Unfortunately, since recording Of Myths And Legends, Surther has had to leave the band due to health problems and when you listen to this album you will hear he has left a mighty big drum-stool to fill. Also, because of day-job commitments, Njörd has left the band and has been replaced by Garm who made his first appearance at this year´s Nocturnal Empire Festival, at the beginning of September.

Of Myths And Legends starts with In Remembrance, a big symphonic keys entrance that should have every Viking Metal fan standing and paying homage to the bravest seafarers ever known as they sail to Valhalla to await the Battle Of Ragnarok! Striking straight out from In Remembrance, the title track almost tears your face off with its speed and ferocity. It has a definite Black Metal undercurrent but the tempo and time signature changes bring the Pagan and Viking Folk element back to the forefront of the song. Irminsul is sung in their native German which is appropriate when singing about the ancient Teutonic God Of War (which was worshipped in the shape of a pillar called Irminsul [the column of the world] near Detmold, Germany). A mix of very melodic violin and guitars feature throughout this fast paced track. The instrumental section from the middle of this track starts with some fantastic drumming on toms and kick, with some smooth melodic guitaring that really gets your juices going, readying you for the following violin/guitar/keys entrance that should get anybody’s head nodding. The Father Of War, is a mid to fast paced track with a heavy guitar riff and big symphonic keyboard background. About half-way through The Father Of War there is a section featuring a mandolin, yet sounds more like a Russian Balalaika, with a real strange time signature that just jumps out at you. It’s a Russian/Ukrainian/Cossack sounding piece that bears no real relation to the rest of the song; it’s good, but a little strange nonetheless, giving you a “WTF did they just do there?” feeling. Sauflied, which if my lapsed German serves me correct means ‘Drinking Song’, is just that; a sway from side-to-side, bang your tankard on the table kinda song, with acoustic guitars and either a flute/ ‘Penny Whistle’ or violin bridge after each chorus. A chorus that goes something like “Yumm dubba-dubba dai, Yumm daah-ba-da-dai, Yumm dubba-dub dai, Yah dah-da-dai,” and just wont leave your head. Howl Of The Wolves is fast paced, with almost Power Metal sounding melodic keyboarding and guitar harmonies between near Black Metal verses; a very powerful track. You would expect Erik, Der Rote (Erik, The Red) to be the most Viking Metal song on the whole album, but no, it is probably the Blackest sounding of them all. If this is the first Black Messiah’s album you’ve listened to, this track is when you start to understand and get the feel for their musical style. That is - Nothing is as it seems, assume nothing and watch for something pouncing out and biting you on the ass. To demonstrate my point, Loki’s Tanz (Loki’s Dance) is a song about earthquakes (Check you Norse mythology) yet it is quite a gentle classical violin, Baroque style instrumental. You’d expect a song about earthquakes to blow your spine apart! Die Sühne Des Feurbringers (The Atonement? Of The Fire-Bringers) is very 21st century Pagan and Viking Folk Metal. Again sung in their native German, you get the feeling that they have been given the musical score from a 1000 year old Pagan/Viking Folk song and re-wrote it to utilize today’s modern electronic musical instruments. Like in Irminsul Surther has a good rhythm going with kick and toms which adds loads of ‘Gallop’ to the song. Moskau fires straight at you with a fast, chugging, flanged riff taking you to Blackened verses and Folksy, beer drinking Cossack choruses that are going to link up with the choruses from Sauflied and rattle around your head for the next month! The final track The Bestial Hunt Of The Fenrizwolf is a powerful ending to a fine album with some technical Blackened guitar riffs with that Cossack/Russian sound that has cropped up now and again. Once again Surther excels with outstanding drumming, especially his metronomic quality blastbeats.

According to Norse mythology, ‘Fenrizwolf’ or the ‘Fenris Wolf’ is a monster, the son of Loki, who takes the shape of a wolf. The Fenris Wolf is to kill the god Odin at the Battle Of Ragnarok. So, perhaps The Bestial Hunt For The Fenrizwolf is a hint of what is to come in their next album? Perhaps a concept album about 800 warriors marching through each of Valhalla’s 140 doors on their way to The Battle Of Ragnarok and Götterdämmerung? Sounds good, but who knows what Black Messiah will stun us with next, just enjoy what they have given us now!

Since being given Of Myths And Legends to review, I have scoured many lands to find Black Messiah’s past releases. I now have Sceptre Of Black Knowledge and Oath Of A Warrior and having played these three albums in chronological order many times, I hear in just over 2 hours the development and growth of, in my opinion, one of, if not the best, Pagan and Viking Folk Metal bands on the scene today, an achievement that took them, and in particular Zagan, almost fifteen years to achieve in real time. Yet, even though they have chosen the style of Pagan and Viking Folk Metal, if you check them out very carefully, like the blonde hair of a ten dollar hooker, you will see their Black roots showing through. This little detail is what sets them apart and makes their music stand out from other bands in this genre.
Killing Songs :
Of Myths And Legends, Irminsul, Howl Of The Wolves, Die Sühne Des Feuerbringers
Ross quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Black Messiah that we have reviewed:
Black Messiah - The Final Journey reviewed by Alex and quoted 81 / 100
Black Messiah - First War Of The World reviewed by Khelek and quoted 79 / 100
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