Length: 46 minutes
All the glory of Viking Folk Metal laid at our feet. Rejoice.
Danish Metal band SVARTSOT definitely understands the true potential of Folk Metal. Mixing the raw, piercing ferocity of Death and the melodic exoticism of Folk. I’ve settled upon the notion that originality is nearly unattainable, so I seek out those albums that leave a lasting impression. And this six piece’s 2015 release ‘Vældet’ is one such album. Metal music is an awesome thing.
Comparisons can be easily made with acts like ENSIFERUM, SYLVATICA, FINNTROLL, and SUIDAKARA. Nonetheless, SVARTSOT stand proudly with solid musicianship, crisp production, and a serious knack for engaging, pummeling songs. Consisting of founder/Guitarist Cris Frederiksen, the bark of Vocalist Thor Bager, multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Hans-Jørgen Martinus Hansen, Guitarist Michael Alm, and the rhythms of Bassist James Atkin and Drummer Frederik Uglebjerg.
Hard to describe the simple notion of what Viking/Folk Metal is. Think the whimsy of medieval music filled with mandolins and flute and then interject the brutality of a total Viking siege complete with everything about Metal music all those “concerned adults” used to warn kids about. Whenever I discuss Folk Metal, most people laugh as though I’m joking. Well, when the results are this satisfying the jokes on them. At its best, nothing can come close to bridging ear-worm fancy with the rage of pure Metal.
Things start strong with lead-off “Midsommer”. A sweet folk intro unleashes an electronic bagpipe(!) infused vocal/guitar ragefest. Frederiksen’s range is limited, but not without its charm. An accessible rasp that enhances the fury of the guitars and brisk rhythms.
Playful KORPIKLAANI oompa opens “Urtekonen” and its classic ENISFERUM styled structure and melody. Great use of acoustic guitar/mandolin/flute accents. Fast, regal, and mean.
Many of these tracks lumber on, a little slow for my tastes. But there’s constant, almost playful, flourish of folksy melodies always there to break the doomy pace.
The festivities continue with “Kilden – I Marker og i Lunde” before unleashing another restless powerhouse in “Allerkæresten min”. Fredericksen growls and screams fueling the peeling low-tuned guitars.
A strong Death influence rises up in “Moder Hyld”, and with it some killer track ending victory chants. “Markedstid” is straight-up early period ENSIFERUM complete with quick tempo shifts and Eastern Folk highlights. Cool, quirky, and contagious. Reminds of the best off of ‘Iron’.
These songs start to blur a bit as things progress. Thankfully, they break up their formula on the Middle-Eastern fable sound of the lone instrumental “I Mørkets Skær”–a triumph of catchy melodies and well-composed song-craft and high-caliber performances.
With a stellar female vocal haunted send-off in “Ved Vældets Vande”. Ably tying all the album’s addictive melodies together while offering distinction and a killer Folk Metal conclusion.
I would never claim that Folk Metal is for everyone. Clearly meant for just a privileged few to appreciate and relish. Glad to be counted among those privileged. And SVARTSOT has created something worthy of deep respect and admiration for us few (and proud). ‘Vældet’ comes Highly Recommended.