Germany’s Thrudvangar gets their name from a compilation of Norse mythology called “Prose Edda” that was put together by Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century. The word translates as “fields of strength” and refers to the homeland of the god Thor. The band certainly does their best to create a powerful, warlike sound on their fifth album, “Tiwaz.”

For instance, the desolate acoustic guitars that open the first track seem to anticipate some great battle and when the heavy guitars finally kick in I can’t help but imagine the valiant charge of a massive battalion of hardened warriors. The band takes a big cue from the Amon Amarth playbook and makes heavy use of medium-paced grooves that are heavy on droning lead guitar and minor chords. However, unlike that band that’s not *all* they do. They run an impressive gamut of feels and tempos and pull influences from all over the metal landscape while maintaining a cohesive fusion of melodic death and melodic black metal. The occasional acoustic guitar breaks offer a refreshing change of pace and do not feel clichéd. The haunting introduction to Heimat is probably one of my favorite moments on the album.

Unfortunately, the theory is often better than the execution. The lead guitar lines too often feel uninspired, not just because of what’s being played but because of how they are played. I don’t think there is a single instance of vibrato on the entire album. Even the good ideas lack power because of the – I realize I’m about to sound like a broken record – stale production. Interestingly, though, the album’s energy is saved somewhat by slightly sloppy playing and apparent lack of quantizing. Listen closely and you’ll notice small changes in tempo during drum fills and during shifts in groove. This authenticity is refreshing in an era of cookie-cutter albums featuring performances that might as well have been computer programmed. On the other side of that, though, are some spots where I swear the guitars are out of tune. That’s not quite as appealing, I’m afraid.

If “Tiwaz” is the soundtrack to some great Viking battle, then the outcome is uncertain. The band strikes with all manner of weaponry but sadly not always with fatal accuracy. Still, it’s a valiant effort.

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