We here at Angry Metal Guy Unlimited Turbo Duo Deluxe Enterprises take pride in bringing you timely reviews of all things metal. That said, sometimes our heroes will go off the beaten path and create something that’s neither metal nor angry. For instance, Enslaved guitarist Ivar Bjørnson, looking to branch out into different streams of musical consciousness, has put down his guitar in favor of a MacBook. Yes, something ambient has been brewing in his awesome beard, and with the help of Today is the Day‘s Steve Austin on guitar and effects, we have the debut BardSpec album, Hydrogen. If my recent Today is the Day induction didn’t rustle jimmies enough, this review could flip a full container of them1. Prepare yourselves now, though; there isn’t a single whiff of anything resembling metal on here.

But that’s not to say there isn’t some quality music on display. After a short introduction that utilizes a decent build-up, “Bone” switches gears and guides you through a kaleidoscope of airy strummed and ambient noise effects. After about a minute or so, pulsating drums introduce themselves, and the song pulls you into a dreamlike void that’s rife with color and atmosphere. It’s a slow burner, but after a couple of minutes, you start to feel yourself entering a trance-like state. Bjørnson develops layers upon layers of soundscapes, taking you on a journey that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Tangerine Dream album. Effective and enjoyable.

Hydrogen demands patience and time to appreciate its nuances and atmosphere, and requires multiple, dedicated listening sessions to unearth new sounds and layers. “Gamma,” the album’s most peaceful tune, reminds me of a day in the park, looking up at the sky while the wind gently blows. Its airy arpeggios and wispy indecipherable vocals act as a bed to lay yourself on as you doze off. Elsewhere, “Fire Tongue” adds a primal flair to the album, building and climaxing with several looping beats, multiple effective climaxes, and a backing harmony that both acts as an instigator and a soother at once. Bjørnson’s command of layers and introducing new sounds every few seconds is impeccable, as if he’s been honing this particular craft for years, and didn’t bother to tell anyone.

That’s not to say that Hydrogen is a completely soothing ride, however. While not overly long at 54 minutes, the songs do drag on after a while. You could edit out minutes from each song and not lose impact. By the time “Salt” rolls around, you can’t help but feel exhausted from repetitive sounds and each song’s length. Bonus track “Teeth” stands out as the weakest song on here, as the same lulling effect expertly captured on “Gamma” isn’t as effective here.

But Bjørnson crafted an intriguing project with BardSpec. While miles removed from his progressive Nordic metal, Hydrogen shows the Enslaved man painting with a different color palette, and the results are worth checking out for the more open-minded of metalfolk. While the album exemplifies “mood music,” Hydrogen is still an enjoyable review. It may not leave you wielding dual invisible citrus, but it may take you someplace you’ve never experienced before.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: By Norse Music
Websites: bardspec.comfacebook.com/bardspec
Releases Worldwide: June 23rd, 2017

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  1. Never flip the jimmies! – Steel Druhm
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  • Reese Burns

    I heard some of this record a while back on YouTube, even though a shitty YouTube stream isn’t the optimal way to listen to this sorta music, I feel I’ve heard enough to say I’m not into it. It’s a shame though, since I want to get that album art in the biggest-sized print I can.

    • herrschobel

      Yeah ? I am tempted to make you one … basic particle system in any 3D Programm and then skinned with a meatball mesh … nerd talk over :-)

      • [not a Dr]

        Nerd talk is never over.

  • basenjibrian

    Hard to read this review and think about whether I would like this music while listening to “Lower” off Atonement. :) (My favorite song right now. It’s on replay to an amazing extent.).

    • Reese Burns

      LOWER… AND LOWER! MY SOUL SINKING LOWER! Such an amazing tune, gets me every time!

      • basenjibrian

        Ranks up there with Our Savior Sleeps and No Jesus No Beast in Best Immolation Songs of All Time. :)

    • Ferrous Beuller

      That thing is still duking it out for top spot on my end of year list.

  • Me

    Sorry the cover screams “Got Milk” to me.

  • rumour

    Angry Metal Guy Unlimited Turbo Duo Deluxe Enterprises, aka AMGUTDDE, aka “Am gut Dde?” “No, but am gut Mmy.”
    [cue rim shot]

  • mindbleach

    Is the art just a screenshot of the Westworld titles?

  • El_Cuervo

    Ivar Bjørnson and Stone Cold walk into a bar…

    • brutal_sushi

      *glass breaks… du dunt du duuu dunt dunt

  • Ivar always had something brewing, since he used to play keyboards in Borknagar. His instrumentals might kind of sound like proto-Bardspec.

    I got kind of bored half way through tho… so yeah… I guess I will try again some other time, when I’m sleepy.

  • sir_c

    For this kind of atmosphere I prefer to listen to Delerium. They have some great accompanying vocals.

    • Grymm

      Delerium are incredible.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    The embedded track sounds like the beginning of a Dead Can Dance song that drags on forever.

    • rumour

      I want that, actually.

      • Feytalist


    • Brutalist_Receptacle


  • welyyt


  • brutal_sushi

    I met Bjørnson last time they came around and holy hell was he one of the coolest people ever. The embedded track is very VERY tasty, and I cant wait to blast this in the early morning hours.

  • The embedded track makes me wish I still smoked weed. This would be great to listen to while playing Medieval : Total War.

  • Wilhelm

    This is the music you listen to when winter night driving in Iceland.

  • herrschobel

    why does the skull doesn´t have a beard for gods sake ??? my day is ruined !

  • Feytalist

    Love it. Sounds a bit like Shadows-era Ulver, actually. Only without Garm’s mellifluous vocals.

  • Love the embedded track. For me, the 10 minutes flew by. Some nice visuals in the video, too.

  • jersey devil

    I really hate this. Aimless, bloated, soulless.