Thursday, 13 October 2011


 I've already written one post about ALLEGIANCE, with the review of their "Hymn Till Hangagud" album, but just few days ago I decided to give also a listen to the second LP from this Swedish band and I thought: "man, this band was so brilliant, their music was fantastic, how come no one remembers them anymore????? How come their albums are not available anymore and why the hell the band didn't record anything since 1999???” Soon afterwards, I decided to find as much info about ALLEGIANCE as I can and write this damn article, to remind you all about one of the greatest Swedish bands ever! It wasn't easy, it turned out that the endless cosmos of internet hasn't got anything to offer about ALLEGIANCE, except band's myspace, which itself is very short in info. I've found just one interview from the band's demo era and that's basically all. I hope though that this article will brief you into the band’s history at least a little bit.
I think ALLEGIANCE is known to everybody solely as a side project of two old MARDUK members, B.War (Roger Svensson) and Friedrik Andersson. For years I also thought that it's just their side project that they’ve created at the time of "Heaven Shall Burn" LP, but no! ALLEGIANCE was formed much earlier, years before the cooperation with MARDUK, in Söderköping already back in 1989!! Would you believe that??!! This is when Bogge and Friedrik started a thrash metal band and called it ALLEGIANCE. The line up, except these two, also included Dick Georgson and Mikael Almgren. In 1989 the band recorded their first demo, "Sick World", but this was just a silly effort - funny cover with King Kong was just childish and what can I say about such a song title like "Where Is Batman"? Besides, the sound quality on it was below any criticism, just pure shite he, he. The booklet lists the line up as: Drutten - Vocals, Bogge - Guitar, Sacken - Guitar, Micke - Bass, Froding - Drums, Vocals, but I honestly have no idea who Drutten or Sacken were. Forget it, soon afterwards Devo Andersson joined the band as vocalist and since then the music started to be slightly more aggressive. In November 1990 ALLEGIANCE recorded their second demo (at KFUM Studio) titled "Eternal Hate", which definitely has been a better effort than the embarrassing debut, but still it was far from being the greatest Swedish demo ever. But then Dick left ALLEGIANCE, and so Devo took over the guitar duties and as a four piece (Devo - Guitar, Vocal, Micke - Bass, Froding - Drums and Bogge - Guitar) the band recorded third demo, "The Beginning Was the End". But with Devo doing both guitars and vocals, it didn't work well and also because other band members became tired of his voice, Martin "Draupin" Gustafson (from DARKFIED) joined as ALLEGIANCE vocalist at the end of 1992 and with this new line up, in the summer 1993, the band recorded another demo tape, "Odin Äge Er Alle". From this moment, ALLEGIANCE started to sound different, more vicious, more black metal, with the viking theme, though still with the English written lyrics (only the title is in Swedish). One of the tracks from this demo "A Dawn For Steel Usheated" was also featured on a compilation CD which was included in the Swedish Close-Up Magazine. After this demo Devo, Friedrik and B.War were all asked to join MARDUK, but while the two decided to play in two bands, Devo left ALLEGIANCE and was replaced by Par Thornell. Another demo has been spawned soon afterwards, it was titled "Hövfdingadrapa" and it was recorded at Unisound Studio, in November / December 1994. It was the band's best demo definitely and one, which showed ALLEGIANCE in their own, unique style of fast, aggressive, but slightly melodic black / Viking metal (all three songs later were re-recorded for the debut album). This was also the first demo ALLEGIANCE sent to any labels and quickly the Swedes got the offer from No Fashion Records. Before any more actions were taken though, another line up change occurred, as Martin was asked to leave the band and from then on Bogge took over the vocals. Asked about all these line up changes Bogge said in an interview: "we kicked lots of fucking idiots but I don´t think that we are a hard band to play with. These idiots were kicked because of their worthless musical talents, and some of them because they were total jerks. As an example we can take the jerk Martin Gustavsson, our ex vocalist, who instead of rehearsing with a great band like ALLEGIANCE, went out in Norrköping with a gang of dickheads to hunt vampires with a watergun. And this was only one of all the stupid things he did." In March 1995 ALLEGIANCE signed a deal with No Fashion and in July the same year they entered the Unisound Studio to record, under the watchful eye of Dan Swano, their first album, the amazing masterpiece "Hymn Till Hangagud". The album has eight songs and in total there are some of the finest 47 minutes in the history of Swedish black / viking metal ever. I love almost everything on this CD, oh just read my review and see what I think about it. Besides, could you resists this amazing front artwork (by Alf Svensson, ex At the Gates!!!), where the priests are hanging on the tree because they tried to turn this poor, but angry Viking into the catholicism?? Death to them! There's a funny anecdote about the recording of "Hymn Till Hangagud". This album was recorded during the middle of the summer and because it was very hot, the band opened the windows in the studio when recording the vocals. After few hours though, the police stormed the studio, because someone from the neighbourhood alarmed them hearing someone being beaten to death and screaming in torment. They must have felt really stupid, when it turned out it was Bogge recording his vocal parts he, he! When reading the interview with ALLEGIANCE in Vox Mortis Magazine from the time just after the release of “Hymn...”, I must say I’ve found it weird that soon after the CD was released, the band said how unhappy they were with the production on "Hymn Till Hangagud" - personally I like it a lot, but the band said it's (the production) not proper for bands like ALLEGIANCE (and MARDUK also, as this band also resigned from Unisound at that time). Anyway, since ALLEGIANCE didn't play any tours or gigs (Bogge and Friedrik did that only with MARDUK), the composing process of new material went relatively quickly and already between October to November 1996 ALLEGIANCE recorded their second album, "Blodörnsoffer", but with Peter "Dä va bare larv" Tägtgren behind the console. Roger "Bogge" Svensson, Pär Thornell, Mikael Almgren and Fredrik "Froding" Andersson did another excellent job and the album is even more vicious and furious as its predecessor. It's damn fast, but in many parts also infectiously melodic and epic, all in all delivering 50 minutes of pure, powerful Swedish black / viking metal, which is ripping the Jehova's corpse each time it's been played. If I had to mention five best Swedish black metal records ever, this one would be on this list definitely! The only thing, which should have been done better, was the promotion of the album, which I think sucked, but I think mainly due to the focus of B.War and Friedrik on MARDUK. The only good thing is that ALLEGIANCE rushed the composing quite much and so the third LP, "Vrede", was recorded already in June 1998, again in Abyss Studio! The band was just a three piece then, as Mikael left soon after the previous CD was recorded... and well, "Vrede" is maybe even more melodic and less intense than the previous LP, with more epic edge, but despite that I think it's just another great album in the band's discography. And it's a shame that this album especially was so overlooked and No Fashion basically didn't promote it at all, closing down soon later. Maybe this was also the reason why there’s this silence in ALLEGIANCE camp since. Even though both Friedrik and Bogge left MARDUK years ago and only played sporadically in such projects as TRIUMPHATOR or DEVIL'S WHOREHOUSE, there's nothing new I've heard about ALLEGIANCE since "Vrede" was released. Some websites say that the band has reformed with Bogge, Friedrik, Mikael and Par, as well as with Ulf Dalegren from VOMITORY, but nothing has been recorded yet. I hope though that it will change one day and the great antichristian crusade will have its new chapter.

ALLEGIANCE – Hövfdingadrapa (demo 1994)
Recorded: All music and arrangements by ALLEGIANCE. Recorded at the Unisound Studio, November/December 1994.
Recording line up: Roger Svensson - Lead Guitar, Pär Thornell - Second Lead/Acoustic Guitar, Mikael Almgren – Bass, Fredrik Andersson - Drums, Percussion, Martin Gustavsson – Vocal
I have to admit that I've been looking for this demo for quite a long time, but finally someone uploaded it on the internet and so I decided to download it, as it's probably the only way I could ever listen to it and see what Allegiance sounded like, prior to their debut album. But "Hövfdingadrapa" may not give an exact answer to it, as the tracklist from it includes just three songs and all of them have later been recorded again on the successful debut album "Hymn Till Hangagud". I guess if I really wanted to see how the beginnings of Allegiance were, I would have to get the earlier demo, "Odin Äge Er Alle", but well, I'm happy to listen to "Hövfdingadrapa", as this is killer demo. Three songs: "Hövfdingadrapa", "The Third of Ravens" and "The March of Warlike Damned"... All are really great and I must say I totally like their demo versions. They sound raw as hell and brutal, of course the production on the demo isn't as good and polished as on the full length album, but to my taste it is killer. The atmosphere on it is very black metal and I really love it. In the beginning of the title track it really reminds me Kampfar, at other times the music sounds like Enslaved, Dissection or Marduk... It's all very diverse and I must say that the arrangements were absolutely fantastic. I'm not surprised these songs ended up also on the album. It truly is the highest quality Swedish black metal, so... "Hövfdingadrapa" = one of the best demos EVER!!!!!!!!
Best song: "The Third of Ravens"
Final rate: 75 / 100

ALLEGIANCE – Hymn Til Hangagud (NO FASHION – CD 1996)
Recorded: Recorded at Unisound Studios, July 1995.
Recording line up: Pär Thornell - Second Lead/Acoustic Guitar, Mikael Almgren – Bass, Fredrik Andersson - Drums, Percussion, Bogge – Guitars / Bass
Viking metal can be a curious genre. It may include musically completely different bands and be as various as the difference is between the cheesiness of say Turisas or Ensiferum and the majestic epicness of Bathory up to the black metal aggression of early Enslaved or Helheim. It's only the viking theme in the lyrics what connects these bands. Allegiance is also one of those viking themed Scandinavian troops. But music wise they haven't got much in common with any of these bands I mentioned above. Hmm, maybe there are some similarities in fragments to "Frost" LP, but generally Allegiance is much more aggressive and straight forward, but at the same time melodic and Swedish sounding. "Hymn Till Hangagud" is their debut album from 1996 and I must say it's one of my favourite Swedish albums from that period. The strength of the album lays in both excellent song writing and the production. Generally Allegiance is very Swedish in their style, but the band managed to bring also some other influences into their music, what in the end makes this album very original and unique. "Hymn Till Hangagud" kicks off with the riff that is almost close to Kampfar's folky black metal riffing and from that one fragment, Allegiance got my attention. "Höfdingadrapa" is excellent song, it's epic, majestic, but catchy also, with the chorus "Geir fathur Ravners godt" inviting to scream. But then "De Nordiska Lagren" comes with acoustics interludes, some Dissection-esque melodic riffs, there are even silent keyboards hidden behind the guitars... It's another great song, probably even the best on the album, as I love its blend of fairly melodic parts with aggression and fast riffs. "The Third Raven" is even more aggressive, this song really stands similar to what bands like Throne of Ahaz, Sacramentum or Vinterland were doing in those times... and man, it's 4 minutes of pure aggression, but without forgetting about the melodic aspect of Allegiance; just listen to the guitar lead here! These three songs are enough really to understand the strength of Allegiance debut album, luckily for the listener "Hymn Till Hangagud" doesn't end here and brings few more songs. One of them, titled "Himmelen Rämnar" is another my favourite; it's opened by the acoustic theme and then this catchy mournful melody, which is very much in the style of Dissection's "The Somberlain" album. This is fantastic, mid paced song, and great epic, monumental atmosphere just brings attention fully and convince me these are some of the best tunes the Swedish land has unleashed in the mid 90's. Truly, the album hasn't got anything what I would complain at. The production is just great, probably one of the best ones to come from Unisound and Dan Swano, at least in this style of metal. Fast fragments sound like thunders roaring in the sky and everything is so clear in the sound, the drums, the vocals... The production definitely makes the songs even more killer, especially that so often the sound kills good music... Here it's not the case; "Hymn Till Hangagud" sounds brilliant. If that's not enough compliments for you, then the front cover looks just fantastic, great idea and design, with these priests hanged on the tree, ravens flying around them (probably looking for some eye balls to eat out) and the angry viking roaring in bloodthirst. Inside of the booklet you'll also find plenty of band photos and lyrics, mainly in Swedish, but those, which are in English I fuckin enjoyed reading! They're great, just take a look on these lines:
"Weak ones- be food to my axe It´s twin edges thirst for your blood My winter pale horse grinds down all resist I ride with the speed of the light..."
"Gods of all things wild Of storm and warlit sky Of battles past present and to come With faith in thee I know I can not die..."
I can't believe how much this band and this album in particular has been clearly forgotten and underestimated nowadays. Seems like there are only few who remember Allegiance, probably mainly due to the Bogge's and Friedrik Andersson's role in Marduk. But trust me, this is brilliant music. Sadly it was released just once, by No Fashion Records, so nowadays this CD is totally unavailable, so this may also be the reason for the underestimation of Allegiance. Maybe it will change one day, maybe someone will re-release it (hopefully on vinyl, just like A Canorous Quintet gets their albums released on LP now), but till then, try to get the first pressing or even mp3 and listen to one of my favourite Swedish albums from the mid 90's.
Best song: "The Third of Ravens", "Himmelen Rämnar", "Höfdingadrapa"
Final rate: 96 / 100

ALLEGIANCE – Blodörnsoffer (NO FASHION – CD 1997)
Recorded: Recorded at Abyss Studio between October to November 1996. Mixed and produced by Allegiance and Peter "Dä va bare larv" Tägtgren. All music by ALLEGIANVE. Lyrics by: Roger "Bogge" Svensson on all except #6 from Valans spådom / Sången om Grimner.
Recording line up: Roger "Bogge" Svensson - Vocals, Guitars, Pär Thornell – Guitars, Mikael Almgren – Bass, Fredrik "Froding" Andersson – Drums
Truly this must be one of the most underestimated bands from Sweden, one which - despite having three excellent albums - haven't been noticed much and nowadays isn't even known to many (newer) fans. This is a shame, if you ask me, because the quality of Allegiance music is better than the one from 99% of albums of different bands. More so, Allegiance had this advantage of having B.War and Friedrik from the good, old Marduk line up, from "Heaven Shall Burn" era (the best period in Marduk's history???). Anyway, I've already written some words about the band's debut LP, "Hymn Till Hangagud", now it's time to praise their second full length album, "Blodörnsoffer". Originally recorded - in Abyss Studios, if you have any doubts - and released in 1997, these are 50 minutes of the most devastating and bestial black metal you can imagine. Or maybe I should write viking metal, as this is what Allegiance initially have played or rather talked about in their lyrics, but viking metal is not a label for specific sound, rather for certain theme in the lyrics. Nowadays the term "viking metal" is considered to be happy and cheerful, sing along music, not something so vicious and relentless. But this is exactly how "Blodörnsoffer" sounds like, starting with "Med Svärd I Hand", till the very end, it is destructive avalanche of fast black metal riffing that will ultimately stick in your head and force you to join the madness. If you think of bands like Dissection, Vinterland and Marduk (from "Opus Nocturne" and "Heaven Shall Burn" era), maybe also with some similarities to the atmosphere from "Frost" and "Eld" LPs by Enslaved, then these four bands would be the ones I could compare Allegiance music to. It is fast and uncompromising, but it is also damn melodic in many parts. Some riffs have great catchiness, occasionally also the band puts an acoustic ("Likbal") or keyboard interruption, but usually they only underline the epic atmosphere and are nothing more than a calm before the storm. And also to avoid the monotony in the music, you'll get hit also by such tracks as "En Svunnen Tid", almost slow or mid paced, very melodic, with some nice sounding guitar leads. But even then the music of Allegiance sounds aggressive and has so much energy that it fills you from the very first second... Finally if you listen to "Yggdrasil", which is another mid paced song, then I think you may spot some classic thrash metal or even heavy metal influenced riffs there. So, in the end, even though the whole impression on the album is that it's very fast and energetic, it also doesn't avoid being more melodic and epic. Oh, I almost forgot also to point out how great are the vocals of Mr. Bogge, known also as B.War! His vocals or rather screams are excellent, very furious and maniacal. And maybe his vocal lines are not that diverse, as he rather uses just this one kind of screaming, but that's not a problem and in the end it fits the music perfectly. Mind that all lyrics have been written in Swedish - which I have no problems with, I like the sound of this language and it sounds great in black metal, but I would love to have the translations, as I always like to know what the band sings about. All in all, this is great album. If I ever had to mention five of my favourite Swedish black metal albums, this one would be on this list for sure, together with the likes of "The Somberlain", "Welcome My Last Chapter", "Ancient God of Evil" and "Heaven Shall Burn" (I would put Bathory in totally different category, the Master has no rivals).
Best song: They're all great
Final rate: 95 / 100
Recorded: Recorded in Studio Abyss June 1998. Produced by Peter Tagtgren of HYPOCRISY.
Recording line up: Roger "Bogge" Svensson - Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Pär Thornell – Guitars, Fredrik "Froding" Andersson – Drums
Review: Having two fantastic albums in your discography and being known for your participation in one of the most successful black metal bands ever, it must have been tough for Allegiance members to compose and record another killer slab of their viking themed black metal. But maybe I'm completely wrong, maybe all that experience, which Bogge and Friedrik had, worked on them positively and "Vrede" could have been the easiest of all Allegiance works? I don't know, the truth is though that even though it's another great album, I also must say that it's probably one, which I like least of all three full lengths that those Swedes have unleashed. Let’s say it’s still killer and great, but not as much as the other two are. The resemblance to Marduk's "Nightwing" album in the opening song "I Som Drogens Hart Med Döden" is striking at first, as the furiously fast riffs and the way Friedrik plays his drums are totally like "Of Hell's Fire" or "Slay the Nazarene", luckily later on the song turns into slightly slower and more melodic one, but these parts are usually only a short break before another cannonade of devastating rhythms begin. One would argue whether there's any point playing something exactly the same in two bands - as I remind you that Bogge and Friedrik were playing in both Marduk and Allegiance at that time - but let me explain that the rest of "Vrede" differs from Marduk much more than you would think. With the third song, "I Stjärnornas Skugga" the music turns into something else, it slows down a lot (although "I Stjärnornas Skugga" still has some sections of unbelievably fast playing), it's relatively mid paced and with the keyboards and such type of riffing as it has, it actually may almost remind you Dimmu Borgir's "Stormblast" for instance and some other Norwegian bands like Enslaved, but I'm not going to take this as an disadvantage, as the song is actually really cool, more melodic and mellow yes, but also suitably aggressive. "Hrodvitners Rike" and "Baldersbalet" successfully continue this way of playing and I must say that despite liking these three songs, I started to worry that "Vrede" will be too slow, much more melodic and epic than its predecessors and not so ultimately fast (although "Baldersbalet" has very fast middle part). When the beginning of "Nordens Fäder" turns into even more epic playing I knew that I shouldn't be expecting the killer machine like "Blodörnsoffer" was. I must honestly say that when I've heard some parts of "Nordens Fäder", like that melody in the second minute, well... I was kind of shocked that Allegiance lost so much of their power and aggression. I didn't expect this to come. What’s more, almost 70% of the album is like that… There is basically just one, totally fast and neckbreaking track, which will really remind you Marduk a lot and which is a real blasts from hell. All the rest of "Vrede" is slow paced, more melodic and much more quiet, sometimes these songs have some keyboards added, but mostly these melodic parts are focused on twin guitar playing - honestly, when I've listened to "Hedna stal (Hymn till Nordens hjältar)" I swear that the first thing that came to my mind, when hearing the riff in the fifth minute was "damn, these guys have taken also some influences from Iron fuckin Iron Maiden!". At times the music becomes dangerously harmonic and "nice" he, he, just listen to the ending bits of the song I just mentioned... All these totally melodic guitar leads in it have very progressive touch, don't you think? All in all, I think that this is the most experimental track in Allegiance history so far, in many places reminding me Enslaved strongly, as both viking bands have developed this progressive touch in the music (in Allegiance case, it's mostly this one song though, not the whole album) and when you hear "Skymning", which closes the album, well... you start to realise that Allegiance really turned into slightly different kind of band than they used to be, as this closing track is a wonderful, very harmonic instrumental, based on dreamy keyboard parts and again with pleasant solo on guitar. So, as you can see "Vrede" is definitely the most varied, but also the slowest and most melodic of all three Allegiance albums. I can say that some of the parts of this album have really surprised me, some positively, some maybe more negatively, but anyway the surprise was enormous. But all that doesn't mean this album is bad. No, I still enjoyed listening to it and definitely it's an essential CD to be in the Swedish black metal collection, remember though that personally I liked the previous albums more and I wish also "Vrede" was a bit more vicious and relentless, as it lost quite a lot of the aggression the band had on first two LPs. But maybe it's actually better to record something different than putting three exactly the same albums?
Best song: "I Som Drogens Hart Med Döden", "Baldersbalet", "Nordens Fäder", "Hedna stal (Hymn till Nordens hjältar)"
Final rate: 80 / 100

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