The King and the Emperor are back (and I admit that there is a third crusade in the meantime, and that this project is working on their fourth album too – but let’s now focus on their second one). Robert Koning (all instruments and clean vocals) and Yorick Keijzer (lead vocals) released the follow-up for their debut called I (or just Walg, if you want to), which is smartly called II (and indeed, the third part, released in early 2023, is titled III; ah, I adore certainty and perspicuity). II indeed is the follow-up of the great debut from late Summer 2021 (link for the review: see below), which was one of the most satisfying surprises from that year (at least to my modest opinion, for what it’s worth). So I did look forward to experience this second full-length.
II was initially self-released in early 2022 via digital sources, but due to a huge demand to have this material printed physically, the band offered a limited bunch of copies on compact-disc too (more specifically, in September 2022). These ones are sold out, evidently. In the meantime, the smaller label Zvaertgevegt came up with a limited edition on tape as well, which includes the original artwork (courtesy of Yorick). That said…
This second full album goes on in the vein of the debut, and somehow further as well. It has been mastered by Merijn Middelweerd and lasts for almost three quarters of an hour. I do not know who took care of the cover artwork, but it is very effective and specific, going well with the sonic and lyrical concept(s).
The album starts with the intro Einde, which is sort of fun, for ‘einde’ means ‘(the) end’ (*). Anyway, it’s a short piece of blackened ambience, with strange sounds, haunting keyboards and some samples, preparing the listener for a harsh experience yet to come. And with Misgeboorte (‘miscarriage’), that harsh happening overwhelms immediately. It’s one of the shortest compositions on II, but believe me if I say that this sets the battlefield afire!
(*) the outro indeed is called Begin…
II indeed brings a devastating collection of militant yet melodic hymns, balancing in between archaic dominion and harmonious elegance. The whole album stands for very varying, tradition-based Black Metal, and that variation goes for both speed and structure. When it comes to the first, well, it’s amazing how organically this duo can switch from mid-tempo excerpts to intense and immense eruptions, and back again. The better part indeed is quite dexterous and licentious, with speed-up drum patterns and fast-paced string-laden rhythms, sometimes blasting like a pyroclastic explosions, then again creating an unstoppable tsunami of sound. But also within the mid-tempo-oriented parts, Walg never shed any severity.
Despite a very cohesive totality, Walg surely succeed to add their hymnic pieces with a necessary amount of changes in structure and playing approach too. A keyword is ‘epic’ for sure, notably when the rhythm gets more rumbling. Besides, a track like Verlossing (‘salvation’) simply breathes a Heathen / Pagan-like majesty. It’s that bathorian rhythm section at the background (and then I am referring to the glorious essence behind an album like Hammerheart), yet also the use of a launeddas (an old kind of three-piped woodwind instrument), the acoustic outro, and that victorious, warlike outburst with a specific Nordic-styled attitude, that make this song an example of Walg’s dreadnaught and fearless approach. Or what about that harmonious choir-like fragment in Zondvloed (‘deluge’)? It wouldn’t be acceptable if I forgot to mention the use, although rather limited (yet of importance), of clean chants, which do fit exceptionally well within this case.
With II, Walg sort of bring their own glorious tribute to the core of the so-called Second Wave. More than once, the European scene from the (early) Nineties, and the Scandinavian more specifically, comes to mind, although this duo does not just copy the old-styled scene. Yet then again, they succeed to drench the whole into a modernistic, own-faced magnificence. Above all, they do add their own elements, like the use of their mother-tongue (Dutch indeed), or the Oriental outro on Ik Haat (‘I hate’), that use of the launeddas, the addition of sounds and samples (I recommend listening to that mesmeric, haunting intro, intermezzo and outro in Terug Naar De Aarde [‘back to the earth’], with these angelic voices that also reappear in the outro Begin), and more.
The sound-quality is top-notch as well (no, I can’t say anything negative about this album, apparently), with a crusty-grainy tinge that sweetly mutilates the fine-tuned production. Of high level is the final mix, for all instruments (electric and acoustic) and voices (and I did not mention the powerful throat of Yorick yet, so here it comes: Yorick = powerful throat; thank you, but no thanks). The result is very decent, and I am glad that it does not sound too surgically-clean, yet that it does come with that subtle roughness.
I do apologize for this ‘late’ review (it got prepared more than a year ago, yet it got never finished – until now), but I think it is never too late to give some additional support or promotion to such amazing material! All hail nausea and disgust!