Almost five years to the day after the release of their debut album, Edge of the World, the New York melodic death metal band Last Legion have returned with a new full-length, and in a word, it’s glorious. Although the album was officially released earlier this week, we’re bringing you the first full album stream today, preceded by a few more words of praise (okay, more than a few).
As signified by the new album’s title — Muspelheim — Last Legion have drawn on the timeless tales of Norse myth for the lyrical subject matter of their songs, and they’ve created music that matches the epic scale of their subject matter — music that’s explosively powerful, persistently adrenaline-inducing, and quite memorable. Without taking anything away from Last Legion’s own creativity, you may well conclude that you’ve found an American Amon Amarth, one that could hold their own, side-by-side, with that most obvious reference point.
The horns, strings, and booming percussion of the symphonic intro track, “The Rising”, provides a stage-setter for something grand, and maybe a bit frightening. And from there, the music’s persistent air of a larger-than-life drama unfolding just grows more and more pronounced.
The one-two punch of “Beyond the Northern Waves” and “Arsenal”, which follow “The Rising”, give you a heavy and electrifying dose of what Last Legion bring to the table. The former is both brooding and fiery. Introduced by slow, massive chords and grim, buzzing riffs, it begins to hammer and jab, and the band combine skull-cracking grooves with scintillating guitar leads that soar and swirl. The latter, although edged with melancholy, is faster and more furious, anchored by a galloping rhythm and rapid-fire, jagged riffing and enhanced by a boiling solo.
Those opening tracks also display the talents of lead vocalist Jason Ayala, whose deep, massive growl and clear lyrical enunciation might well put you in mind of Johan Hegg. And what you’ll continue to find repeatedly over the length of the album is that the lyrical refrains seem tailor-made for fist-pumping audiences to yell them out right along with Ayala.
Those two songs make for a strong opening, but there’s no drop-off in quality after that. The song-writing is consistently strong, featuring astute changes of pace and memorable melodies, and the performances are consistently powerful. “Mjölnir” is a huge headbanger, featuring start-stop bursts of furious riffing and one of many fluid and soulful solos that are scattered through the album, while the impressively dynamic title track is more mid-paced and sorrowful, but laced with jolting chords and surges of savage energy.
Earlier this week we premiered the band’s video for the highly infectious “Gods Ov Chaos”, and it’s no wonder they picked that song for an official video. It’s a barbaric neck-wrecker that combines pile-driving grooves, grim, pestilential riff swarms, and highly infectious guitar leads. There’s a melancholy melody in “Haunted By Dreams” that evokes the atmosphere of the song’s title (as well as a gorgeous melodic solo), but the tumbling drums, vicious tremolo chords, and darting arpeggios keep the album’s driving energy alive and well.
Based on the title of “Hall of the Slain”, you might be expecting a lament, but it turns out to be a glorious, galloping, heart-pumping anthem, and the extended solo in the song is probably the album’s best. And to close the record, “Wolves of Winter” still doesn’t see Last Legion pulling back on the throttle — until near the end, and only then to make way for another wonderful solo. But even then, they quickly follow up with a compulsively headbangable finale.
In short, Muspelheim is a vibrant and tremendously enjoyable musical saga, one that never drags and one that doesn’t wear out its welcome after repeat listens.
Muspelheim was mixed and mastered by Aady Pandit (The True Goat, Ambient Death, Jotunheim), and it’s available for order now at Amazon.com or directly from the band’s website (linked below).
You can catch Last Legion live on January 20th at the Queens Extreme Metal Fest at Blackthorn 51 in Elmhurst, NY.
LAST LEGION is
Jason Ayala – Vocals
Christopher Sampath – Guitars / Vocals
Dubek Kim – Guitars
Rich Mollo – Bass
Ameer Aljallad – Drums