(Norway-based metal writer Karina Noctum prepared this review of the new fifth album by the Norwegian band Sarke.)
Sarke released their fifth full-length Viige Urh on October 13. This time they are infusing the Viking theme into the music. This is not being done in the same metal fashion as other epic, folk bands have done. They borrow from genres which you wouldn’t normally see mixed into anything Viking. They are attempting to sound unique without straying too far from their original sound, and they succeed.
This album is excellent and it is not going to bore you at all because it is complex and comes with many musical surprises along the way. In addition, it is super-infused with feeling! So it is also unique in that sense. With Viige Urh, Sarke get a bit less thrashy and voyage much more into the dark waters of Viking, Stoner, and Doom.
In fact, Sarke kinda mess with your head by blending so many different soundscapes into a whole, and it is amazing how they manage to do this while maintaining a hold on the album’s integrity. It is absolutely not a mess, yet it is ever-changing and even gets a bit experimental. I guess it takes lots of years to get to this point. It can’t be done easily.
It opens with “Viige Urh”. The familiar old-school sound welcomes you and eventually turns a bit colder with a pretty strong Bathory vibe. Next we have “Dagger Entombed”, which opens with an intro that goes well with the cover. It is epic, and for some reason, I associate it with ancient naval battles (I guess it could be described as incorporating a relaxed, typical Nile sound effect as well). The song structure is totally interesting and it keeps building rhythmically. Toward the end the epic sounds intertwine with the guitars, and that is neatly done. All in all it is delightful for all those who love Norwegian-style guitars.
The Viking style is even more accentuated with the opening of “Age of Sail”. You get the picture of bearded warriors out on the sea! And for some weird reason I also think about ZZ Top at the same time! Which is a pretty weird combination I must admit.
“Upir” is pretty prog, but it keeps on developing the overall heavy rock sound, although a brief avant-garde melodic part sneaks in out of the blue, reminiscent a bit of Arcturus. And that’s an example of why I say the album may surprise you at times. Toward the end you get the beautiful guitar harmonics blending into a kind of psychedelic stoner synth.
“Jutul” begins with a sweet acoustic tune and female chants that tend to throw you into a pensive mood — only to be snapped out of it, because it is interrupted abruptly. There he comes, a minstrel! Or at least it seems that way to me. You know it is story-telling made song, and the pace fits this style. The vocals grow more and more dramatic and the music eventually becomes more Doom, which is actually a change that fits with the tragic mood of the song lyrics.
The Doom mood is set, and “Punishment to Confessions” furthers it. This song comes with an experimental part that I can only compare with the kind of stuff you hear when prog death metal gets cosmic — the melody of space odysseys. Sarke are really aiming, and succeeding, at composing unique songs with Viige Urh. The music keeps surprising you. It is a pretty experimental song in many ways and completely different from what you may have expected.
In contrast, “Knifehall” takes you back to what you would expect Sarke to sound like, except that midway it manifests a tinge of Doom again.
The whole musical piece culminates with “Evolution and Fate”, which is perhaps the most beautiful track on the whole album, and my favorite. It reminds me of Gehenna and is pretty much Doom the Norwegian way. This song has beautiful harmonies but is cold as fuck at the same time. The Norwegians absolutely rule when it comes to this. Preserving the feeling of wholeness, after a brief dose of psychedelic synths, Sarke remind you toward the end that the overall theme is Viking. In a calm and elegant way, the album ends with a toned-down but still heavy-metal-esque epic sound.