A viking's life is filled with hardship, what with all the rowing, raiding, and embarrassing headgear.
But life as a viking rapper is a far stiffer challenge. Just ask Norse Law. Or what's left of them.
"There's been no money, no girls, no audience, nothing," sighs Valhalla Ice, founder and frontman for the area's premier Nordic-themed heavy metal/hip-hop troupe. "But I'm not going to quit."
In the past six months, Ice has been given plenty of reasons to hang up the broadsword. Early this year, the Warner Bros. affiliate D.M.G. Records purchased the rights to Norse Law's funny, fierce sophomore LP, Sweet Home Scandinavia, with plans to release it nationally. In April, the band signed a management deal with D.M.G. that dropped the album in Tower Records stores across the country. Indeed, it was good to be a viking.
"I was in constant contact with the guys at the label," Ice says between swigs of Miller Lite at Lakewood's Warren Tavern. "Just about every day, I was talking to them and had built quite a substantial personal relationship with them over six months. They said they were going to put all their efforts into making us succeed. [The A&R rep] would stress to me that he was not like all these other record moguls, some guy with a ponytail and a suit on. He was telling us that he was really into the band and he really wanted to make it happen."
In two months, Norse Law sold 1,000 CDs. There was talk of touring, of magazine ads and promotion. And then all the talk stopped. Completely. In early June, D.M.G. moved offices and fell out of touch with Norse Law. Cell phones were disconnected, e-mails went unreturned.
"I have no idea where these guys are or what's going on; no idea how many CDs we've sold; no idea if I'm ever going to see any money for the CDs that did sell; no idea if there are ads being run or if they're going to run," rumbles Ice, a burly blond man with Stallone-sized arms and an impish laugh.
The only other band on the label that Norse Law was familiar with, cow-punkers the Load Levelers, haven't heard from D.M.G. either. An entertainment lawyer could most likely resolve the problem swiftly, but Ice doesn't have the money to hire one. ("I'm barely making rent," says Ice, who prefers not to reveal his day job because "it's not very metal.")
And it gets worse.
With label backing, the band was offered an opening slot on tour with Staind in late spring.
"We were told we were going to leave in three weeks at one point," Ice says. "The guys at the record company were talking about leaving their jobs and following us around on the tour. They were showing us sample riders. We were picking out what kind of food we wanted."
But as Norse Law's label situation began to deteriorate, so did the tour plans. Frustrated by the setbacks, Ice's bandmates quit. That was shortly after Norse Law had already parted ways with rhymer Smoke. Ice admits that may have been their undoing.
"D.M.G. really liked Smoke," he says. "I explained to them that things weren't working out, he wasn't really into the whole concept of what we were doing, with the Norse mythology, some of the black-metal ethos that I try to put into some of the lyrics. But they persisted that he should be in the band."
The label eventually gave Norse Law the green light to axe Smoke, but ceased its contact soon thereafter.
And so now Ice has no band, no label, no money, and his latest album is pretty much dead in the water. Nevertheless, he's persisting -- writing and recording the next Norse Law album, tentatively titled Macabre Sky, all by himself. He's insistent upon getting Norse Law its due.
"I feel like I've put so much time and effort into this, and I really believe in what I'm trying to do, so I'm going to stick with it," he says. "I'm even more determined to make it work now. And maybe this story will make a difference. Maybe somebody else will be spared what I went through."