By Will Yannacoulias
From the frozen fjords and impenetrable alpine forests of Lloydminster hail Ashes of Yggdrasil, a melodic death metal four-piece inspired by the Viking metal bands of Northern Europe. Memorable melodies and complex, satisfying song arrangements are paired with lyrics inspired by Nordic folk tales and heroic sagas, combining for a heavy, epic musical journey through history and myth. The band’s debut release, 2019’s The Path, was followed up last October by Bearing The Pelt Of The Wolf King, an epic ten song celebration of Norse mythology and the Viking warrior ethos. Ashes drummer and founding member Rob Hayman spoke with us from his home in Lloydminster, sharing the history of the band and the endless inspiration he finds in Viking history and legend.
Hayman is joined by lead guitarist Brett Stewart, rhythm guitarist Tyrell Appleton, bassist Jarret Beach and vocalist Brendan Wood. Hayman, Stewart and Appleton are lifelong friends who have played together since high school in a few different projects. “We started as a different project in 2014, more old school death metal“ Hayman recalled. “We did that for a few years but it wasn’t fully catching with us, we struggled writing music. In 2017 we changed to Ashes, Jarret and Brendan joined us, the songwriting instantly hit and we just took off. Once we got the full lineup in 2017 our members have been unchanged.”
Bearing The Pelt Of The Wolf King was self recorded by the band under a challenging set of circumstances; the early stages of the pandemic saw Brendan Wood isolated from the rest of the band in a different community, and having to learn audio engineering on the fly to record his vocals independently. Hayman explained that “we had the music recorded by May 2020 but we had an issue, the rest of the band lives in Lloyd but Brendan lives in nearby St. Paul, and that was when everyone was still isolating. We got him set up with a home recording setup, that really accelerated things. Brendan recorded the raw vocals at home over three months, and Brett (Stewart, guitarist) mixed and mastered them.”
Viking mythology and the heroic sagas have always provided a wealth of inspiration for creative dreamers to draw on. From the novels of J.R.R. Tolkien and poetry of Rudyard Kipling to the operas of Richard Wagner, the music of Led Zeppelin and even Marvel superheroes, the tales of Valhalla and Valkyries, cursed rings and magic swords have long captured artists’ imaginations. “I’ve always been a nerd for Viking stuff” Hayman recalled. “Early on I was inspired by bands such as Amon Amarth and In Flames, I think it’s one of the coolest subject matters to write death metal about, the music and stories fit hand in hand. I’ve always been drawn to the stories of the different gods, I’m fascinated with their beliefs and their way of life, how people lived back then. It seems like a really cool spiritual belief, reading things like The Poetic Edda. I’m constantly inspired any time I’m learning about it, studying it, listening to music about it.”
Bearing The Pelt Of The Wolf King has been out for a few months, and Hayman has been overwhelmed by the reception the album has received. “The reaction has been way better than we expected” he shared. “We worked our asses off for this album, we didn’t rush anything, a lot of these songs were played for months before we were ready to record them. We knew we loved it, but you never know how the listening public will react, thankfully it has been an awesome reception.”
Bearing The Pelt Of The Wolf King is available on all streaming services. Ashes of Yggdrasil are playing at Sticks in Lloydminster on Saturday March 19th.