Yggdrasil - Vedergallning 4/5
4. Ekot av skogens sang
It would have seemed a bit ridiculous even a couple of years ago to be talking about different waves of folk metal, but Yggdrasil’s take on the genre is definitely from what I suppose now would have to be referred to as the old school. While a great deal of the current army of bands in the style focus more on concise catchiness and bouncy rhythms, the Swedes (not to be confused with a dozen or so bands of the same name) take their cues more from the 90s, when the genre was still finding its feet.
Similar in some regards to Oakenshield, though with a greater variety in tempo, the 2-piece band - currently short a drummer – are more concerned with crafting sweeping, complex works that evoke the frosty imagery of their homeland than in adding to the bevy of compact battle hymns and drinking songs already out there.
Though it may be seen as a bit of a lazy reviewing technique, the opening track “Oskorei” provides a very good impression of what will come on the rest of ‘Vedergallning’ and sums up most of the prevalent styles almost immediately. The opening piano section is quickly swallowed up by (but continues to play at half-speed underneath) an avalanche of dissonant riffing and blasting drums, maybe giving the false impression that the listener is in for a relentless Norsecore noise-fest. The song quickly smoothes out though, and twists through a variety of different sections and tempos, with the spellbinding guitar leading the way throughout.
Maintaining the guessing game on the title track, the rollicking opening riff briefly suggests a more reserved venture into Isengard territory, before the blasting double-bass kicks in again, accompanied by a soaring violin segment that immediately elevates the song onto a more epic plane and sets the standard for another twisting, unpredictable voyage. The summation of this side of the band’s sound comes at the CD’s high water mark - only 3rd in the tracklist - with the 9-minute “Vitterdimmorna” taking it as far as they are willing to on this CD at least. Chopping and changing with effortless fluidity between brittle black metal vocals and cascading riffs against keyboard-assisted Nordic ambience and resonant chanting, it is a song that keeps the imagination going.
Perhaps wisely toning things down to avoid a sensory overload, the next few songs reign in the meandering looseness of the opening clutch in favour of a more compact approach. The punchy “Ekot av skogens sang” is the mostly likely to provide any broader appeal for Yggdrasil, its jaunty rhythm accented by chiming acoustics in the midsection - given an extra spring by way of the mouth harp - while the harsh and clean vocals are probably given their most even sharing of the stage here.
The last of these 3 more succinct efforts, “Valkyria” is the proud owner of ‘Vedergallning’s’ only guitar solo, and it provides a bit of extra unexpected flair as the song reaches its conclusion. The lead guitar continues on “Storm”, the CD’s black sheep – very short and very aggressive, it has a slightly odd structure, with an ominous (but clean) vocal section coming in the middle of its 3 minutes, with the other sides of the sandwich made up by a menacing, harmonised bit of lead guitar.
The closing track, “Sorg” falls back into the more grand and far-reaching style of the first half of the CD, and brings ‘Vedergällning’ full circle to wrap up in a suitably romantic fashion. The careful ordering of the songs results in a remarkably balanced CD that doesn’t allow itself to become swamped in its own grandiosity, and yet leaves the artistic vision of the musicians involved undiluted.
It goes to show that no matter how packed a particular scene is becoming, so long as there are bands out there writing songs that are fresh and from the heart then there will always be room for more. It may be a little harder to sniff out the real gems in the folk metal arena these days, but make no mistake – they are still there if you know where to look.
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