The Mighty Black Metal of Askog!
Style: Black Metal
Release Date: 10/17/2020
Askog is a two-man band from Sweden who formed in early summer 2020 from the ashes of their previous band, determined to focus in on what they truly loved. This meant a concentration on nature; in specific, the horrors of the natural world and the darkness contained within it. Vocalist/Bassist Lars bought a house deep in the woods of Varmland and the old tales and dark histories of the area informed the feel of the music and the lyrical direction the band would take. Guitarist Adam dug in and they wrote four songs, two of which appear on this demo (a third is a bonus track on the cassette release only), in an effort to showcase their sound and direction. Session drummer Rod B. joined and together, Askog has created a short little demo that fuses Black, touches of Death, some Doom, and lots of epic melodies into a truly soaring album.
Opener “Varg” comes crashing in on a heavy riff that is allowed the space and time to vibrate for a moment, shaking the earth it sprung from. The song grinds along, caught in a slow groove, the melodic guitar lines creating an ethereal atmosphere. The band draws you in, seducing you with some rapturous melodies, before the rocking begins. There’s some Thrash bits here, mixing with the Blackened picking, and the song chugs along. It’s just short of six minutes but it feels much bigger than that, longer and brimming with confident power. These guys don’t sound like they just got together a few months ago. They sound like they’ve been playing together for twenty years. All the instincts are right: they know just when to slow it down, when to speed it back up, when to throw some guitar heroics in for a little razzle-dazzle, ably following the ebb and flow of the track. It’s hard to call this just Black Metal when it really mixes so many different subgenres in there. Let’s just call it Metal and move on.
“Korp” is song number two and it starts with some abrupt, raspy vocals by Lars and then just goes. There’s some heavy riffing, some bee-buzzing flurries of notes, and some psychotic guitar string bending. At its core, just like “Varg,” there’s the Black Metal, holding it all together. This one feels like you’re caught in a whirlpool that’s sucking you down to the bottom of the ocean. You fight and you strain against it, but the cold salt water start to fill your lungs and soon, too soon, you’re drowning. And man, that guitar! The mid-paced stomp is revelatory, but the band isn’t afraid to pick up the speed and let it fly when they need to.
“Vatten” is the cassette-only song and it’s just bursting with melodies and galloping speed. It showcases another side to this band. This one speeds along, slowing here and there to take a tough curve in the road, but revving right back up. Again, as with the others, there’s a confidence here, the sound of two guys that just instinctually know what to do. Once more, really enjoy the guitar work on this one. There’s so many little 80s guitar-god flourishes on all three songs, but this one really lets rip on the solo.
Askog put this small collection together to showcase their sound and their chops, and on both counts they succeed. Like any band that releases their demo to the public, they’re looking for a label to pick them up. To me, this one is a no-brainer. These guys are good, really good, better than most of the bands out there right now. I like the way they keep things fresh. Nothing is ever boring, each song containing movements within movements. They understand the whole “light/shade” thing and they get when they need to muscle up or slow down. Yeah, so get your ass to Bandcamp and buy this when it comes out, or pre-order it now. Get the cassette version, if you can, ‘cause, you know, an extra song is worth it.
The Wizard Has Spoken!