It’s quite a rare occasion that bands such as these come to visit the Southern part of Europe. This autumn, Budapest is fully packed with over a dozen concerts for fans of rock and metal. The beginning of the month was marked by two legendary bands and pioneers of genre in their own right. Even for Budapest with its rich array of concerts and events it has to offer, this came as a pleasant surprise. Einherjer and Månegarm are bands that are not touring frequently, and are rare visitors to this area. In fact, this was a first time for Norwegian Viking pioneers Einherjer to play in Hungary, and while Månegarm has played in Hungary before, they visit every couple of years.
Einherjer hails from Haugesund, Norway, and they’re one of the pioneers when it comes to what we know today as Viking metal. They are sort of a missing link between Bathory and few later bands that defined Viking metal as a genre. They never became as popular as some bands that followed in their footsteps, but have something of a cult following. I am not sure if they were way ahead of their time, or it was simply bad timing since they were already veterans, when the Viking and Norse inspired metal became mainstream.
Månegarm has its origins in Northern Sweden, and they sound exactly how a band from that region should sound. Both bands rely heavily on the Viking influence, as well as the influence of folk music which can be clearly heard. A little over two decades after the release of their debut album, their reputation among the metal fans is slowly growing, but are still on the outskirts of the pagan, Viking, folk or however you want to label the genre that is one of the most popular ones for well over a decade now. Singing mostly in their native language might be another reason preventing them from gaining more widespread popularity. However precisely that, in my opinion, is what gives them distinctiveness and uniqueness.
Until the day of the concert, I was convinced it was being held at another venue, so when I realized that the concert is actually at Dürer Kert, I was a bit disappointed. Although Dürer Kert is renowned place in Budapest where electronic, indie rock and metal concerts are regular, I’m not very fond of it. There are three different concert halls inside Dürer Kert, that differ in size and only the largest one is, if you ask me, is decent enough to provide capacity and sound that is of acceptable quality. Sadly, my fears that this combo of bands is not popular enough to warrant the use of the largest venue inside Dürer Kert was true.
The opening act was the German melodic death metal band called Dawn Of Disease. Honestly, I’ve never even heard of them before, and even the not-so-big venue hall was quite empty during their set. Seems that metalheads in Hungary have similar customs as their Southern brethren, who often prefer to drink beer and skip the opening act. Dawn Of Disease are actual veterans, they have been an active band since 2003, and on this tour, they were promoting their latest album “Procession Of Ghosts”. They put out a decent performance, lead by their frontman’s attempts to make the best impression, and establish good communication with the audience. Still, people seemed shy, and the hall remained scarcely filled, with the atmosphere only gaining a little bit of heat towards the end. It was a decent performance from a fine band, but nothing spectacular. I am afraid that in melodic death, which is quite popular and filled with a tremendous amount of really good bands, they lack some uniqueness to stand out from the crowd. They are not a bad band, but they blend in and lack something distinctive.
Second band of the night were the mighty legendary warriors from Valhalla – Einherjer. They delivered a mixed set of songs from their last few albums, including the latest “Norrøne spor” which is already one year old. Mixed with new material were and some really old, cult songs from the nineties. By the time they started, the venue got decently packed and the audience actually started to give some response to the events on stage. Working through their old and new songs, Einherjer managed to make the atmosphere stop resembling a frozen, winter wastelands of the Scandinavian mountains and actually make the place heat up a bit. People were occasionally chanting, screaming and singing with the band, raising their horns and showing some support and appreciation. During their performance, some of the reasons why I am not so fond of Dürer Kert could be seen, or better say heard. Despite being quite experienced and skillfull musicians, the quality of the sound was not perfect. Don’t get me wrong, it was a long way from being a bad performance, but given that I heard bands perform at this venue on several occasions, I’m not satisfied with the sound the audience gets. The balance was a bit off, sometimes the vocals were too quiet , some feedback loop could be heard now and then. That didn’t stop Einherjer from building up the atmosphere with each song and towards the end the crowd was quite decently lit. The set ended with a beautiful performance of the “Far Far North” for some sing along. My personal, however, was „Dragons of the North“ from their debut album, one of the first Viking metal songs I heard in my life.
After Einherjer ended, the pause was long enough to go and grab a few drinks before the main course of the night was ready to be served. The headliner for this tour, legendary, and I might add, sadly underrated and unknown Månegarm. They were promoting their new masterpiece ”Fornaldarsagor”. The venue was too small and lacked the sound quality the Swedish sons of Odin deserve. The rhythm section, three guitars, a violin and each of the five men also singing definitely requires a better venue. You might get the wrong impression, hearing me complain so much, that it was terrible, but it was anything but. You could hear and recognize every soudn, but it’s the small imperfections and little things which meant that no matter how much quality and talent the band members and their sound engineer have to offer, there were some flaws that simply couldn’t be hidden. Did that stop the band from delivering a great performance and the audience from having fun? Hell no. I already saw Månegarm live once, a long time ago, and with a different line-up. I was quite new to the band back then and didn’t fully appreciated them. Now, my experience was the complete opposite.
Erik Grawsiö is their lead vocalist and bassist, but each band member also provides vocals when needed. What surprised me most is how great their voices sound together, singing choruses, and how skilful and in full control of their voices they all are. I can not describe how powerful it felt hearing all of them sing together. I was quite stunned by Grawsiö vocal performance and the aura he has on stage. As expected, they focused a lot on the songs from their latest album. Which I believe might even be their best album and the pinnacle of their career so far. Each song from “ Fornaldarsagor” is inspired by stories from the Norse sagas. For those unfamiliar, most of their lyrics are in Swedish. Moreover, they often use archaic words and phrases. The drummer Jacob Hallegren has a degree in history and writes most of the lyrics. Don’t start thinking that this is a Viking version of Sabaton or Amon Amarth with lyrics in Swedish. This certainly isn’t meant to be an insult to those bands, both are among my favourites. I mean that their music and lyrics are more focused on stories written in the few historical accounts that we have left from those times, various Norse sagas and mythology. All that fashioned in a more authentic style than the average Viking band. Imagine how modern-day Skalds would sound like if he was into metal. That actually might be the root cause of why the surge of popularity of Viking bands had slightly passed them. Probably a lot more people know about Månegarm today than ten years ago. But given that few other bands today can easily gather several thousands people almost anywhere, some two hundred or more people which I estimate attended this concert is quite a low number.
Back to the concert, the set-list was mostly based around their last two albums, with few older songs mixed in for good measure. The atmosphere got really heated during their performance. They opened up with “Slaget vid Bråvalla”, and from the start one thing was obvious. Aside from the few really hardcore fans, few people could sing the songs together with the band. It was clear that Swedish was an obstacle, but that certainly didn’t stop people from singing melodies of the songs or trying to sing parts of the songs they knew. Highlight of the concert was probably “Odin Owns Ye All”, the only song in English language they played, which meant that everybody could finally sing along without any difficulty. But I must also point out „Hervors arv“ and the cult song „Blodörn”, which were my personal favorites. The crowd might not have been large, but they were really loud and showed how much they enjoyed the band’s performance. Once the moshpit started it did not really stop. People were jumping and singing, it really felt amazing to see such a reaction from the fans and be a part of it.
Aside from the mentioned technical issues that it seems this venue always suffers from, there is one huge flaw of this concert. It was way too short, just a bit over an hour. That is short for a band that has a lot of good songs to offer. This was the third date on the tour, and it consists of only eight dates. Such a short tour, and the fact that it’s a wonder they even came this far from the usual summer festivals and more western-oriented tour dates means that fans deserved to hear at least a few more tracks. Only eleven songs was way too short. It’s indeed quite a rare occurrence to see these bands, so the performance should last longer. Månegarm might be a lot more famous if more of their songs were in English, but that would take away the beauty and uniqueness away. Even for Budapest, where some other bands have sold out concerts in venues that pack more than a thousand souls, having around two hundred people, for a concert such as this is really a bit disappointing.
Aside from those few minor complaints, I can not emphasize enough what a fantastic experience it was to finally see and hear Månegarm and Einherjer. Månegarm‘s latest album is, in my opinion, one of the best albums of 2019, and they truly made this concert an amazing and worthwhile evening. I’ve seen a lot of bands and been to a lot of concerts, but this one is certainly one of my favourite performances I have witnessed, despite the few minor hiccups. I really hope they can finally receive the recognition they deserve so we can get more chances to see and hear them more often.