Galar // Til Alle Heimsens Endar
Rating: 3.0/5.0 —Your sources are showing…
Label: Dark Essence Records
Websites: galar.no | myspace.com/galarmetal
Release Dates: EU: 01.03.2010 | US: 03.01.2010 [as download]

It would seem that Angry Metal Guy is actually forming review themes, like some sort of ongoing process wherein I discuss the ups and downs of the metal scene while reviewing records, and even debate them with some of the other reviewers. Because reviewing is an ongoing process here, often times things get lumped into groups in my head that others might not see. But what’s interesting is how during this big debate about whether or not bands should really be striving for an original and unique sound I am basically reviewing Nàttsol‘s new record and Galar‘s new albums side by side. Like Nàttsol, Galar is a young Norwegian band that is working in the footsteps of Ulver. Released by Dark Essence Records, Til Alle Heimsens Endar (“Until the End of All Worlds”) is the second album from the band, whose first record Skogsvad was released in 2006 and I, incidentally, have never heard it. The record itself is based on the work of Snorri Sturluson’s “Heimskringla”. 

In essence, you should already know what you’re getting yourself into. Til Alle Heimsens Endar is a continuation of the very popular folk metal movement in Norway. In essence, it is the combination of the more traditional bands like Isengard and Storm and some of the later work of bands like Ásmegin and Solefald. Throw in, of course, the early Ulver feel and you have a pretty good idea of how Galar sounds. It’s a good combination of a lot of my favorite things about the post-black metal Norwegian scene. Beautiful vocal harmonies ala Ásmegin and Enslaved are offset by Taake style black metal riffing, and the orchestral approach of Solefald is definitely seen brought to life by Galar, who use acoustic instruments instead of samples in order to create beautiful, haunting melodies and backgrounds to their already heavily melodic metal.

What Galar does best, however, is the folk melodies and harmonies. The track “Ván” is extraordinarily  strong in its melodic pieces, and instead of trying to cop the sound of any specific vocalist, they do a good job of just putting strong choir vocals into the material. This is not to downplay the metal, as well, which is energetic and well-written. The chord structures are interesting and the writers obviously have a good sense of structure, melody and composition. Again, the harmonies are reminiscent of the more melodic brand of black metal that started really hitting the stage in Norway in the late 1990s and still pops up from time to time in bands like the mighty Istapp and, of course, Galar.

So while there is a lot good here, it would be an oversight for me to not point out how strongly I am reminded of many of the bands I have already named. While I understand that there is only so much the metal community can really do with the whole viking and Norse mythology thing, it has been feeling pretty well done for a while and while Til Alle Heimsens Endar is a very good record, had it been released 8 years ago it would’ve been an excellent record or maybe even “perfect.” The lyrics, while I’m sure are quite good, have been repeatedly referenced for the last 10 or 15 years from bands of all stripes and from all over the world, and the vocal stylings are a dead ringer for Solefald‘s style.

This is one of those records that walks that fine line between derivative and original. There are definitely some steps here towards something unique, fascinating and original but the sources are still a bit too clear for my liking. Galar is a band in development and I look forward to hearing a third record from them, because I think by then a truly unique sound will have formed. I guess it goes to show you that if you’re derivative of multiple sources, you sound more unique, but if you’re derivative of only one source you just sound derivative. Therefore, being unique can be best be summed up like this: steal from 3+ bands, not just one. “Originality is just well-disguised plagiarism.”

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