There’s nothing quite like Danish melodic death/folk, right kids? What’s that you say? You don’t know what Steel Druhm speaks of? For shame! By now you probably should know of Svartsot and their heavier than thou approach to folk metal since they’ve been churning it out since 2007. I was a big fan of their quirky debut Ravnenes Saga and was equally amused by the follow up Mulmets Viser (as was AMG himself). Both featured heavy but very catchy and anthemic folk metal with very deathy vocals. Their sound can almost be summed up as Korpiklaani meets Cannibal Corpse after too many ales. Its a weirdly festive andÂ danceable style (yes, you may want to dance around like a spazz to some of their tunes) that somehow remains bruisingly heavy at the same time. Because their approach is so offbeat and unique, it struck a nerve with me and I had high hopes that nerve would continue getting struck with Maledictus Eris, their third release. I’m happy to report this is more entertaining, beer stein swinging, gnome jigging, renaissance faire approved folk metal. All the elements that made the previous albums work are present and if anything, this may be more catchy and fun than before. Now, their admittedly quirky style might not be everyone’s cup of grog. It requires a little tolerance for folk-infused camp and silliness but if you can handle the oddness, its more fun than a barrel full of forest gremlins.
After a short intro, Svasrtsot brings down the folk hammer with “Gud Giv Det Varer Ved!” and its stacked with folksy riffing, deathly croaks and flutes, lots of flutes. In fact, there’s more flute on here than on Yanni at the Necropolis or the average Zamfir record. While there’s other typical folk instrumentation present, the flute takes a lead role on most songs and plays harmony off the riffing. Tracks like “Dodedansen” and Om Jeg Lever Krieg”put it to good use and both have a cheery, driving pace that will keep the head nodding and the stein swinging. The bagpipes in “Holdt Ned Af En Tjorn” sound great alongside heavy, crunching riffing and low death gurgles and this ends up being a standout ditty. For me, the big hit is “Spigrene” with its laid back acoustic feel and emotive clean singing. There’s something quietly powerful, beautiful and epic about it though it never gets heavy or aggressive. Although all the lyrics are in Danish and therefore beyond my understanding, they revolve around the Black Death ravaging Europe. While that is a great topic for metal, a lot of the songs feel too festive for such a dark concept and most sound far more like drinking songs than “bring out your dead” songs.
All the songs have their own charm and appeal whether heavier or mellower. There’s nothing rotten among these Denmark tunes. However, their writing style can sometimes lead to an overly repetitive approach within each song. Its almost like folk-groove metal. They lock into one very cool, fun riff and just keep recycling it. For the most part it works well and the songs are short enough where they end before any tedium sets in. As with prior material, the guitars are the main focus and the various medieval instrumentation plays second fiddle (sorry, couldn’t avoid it). This helps ensure things remain heavy and crunchy and that’s one of the things I like about these guys. The best part about the sound is the croaking from Thor Bager (coolest name ever). While largely employing a low-register death groan, he does at times switch to a more traditional viking metal blackened rasp. His vocals make this heavier than most folk music and therefore, they stand out in a pretty deep genre. Well done Thor Bager, well done!
With three albums of top notch folk metal under their leather belts, Svartsot is one of my favorites in the genre. If you like folk metal or viking metal, I have to imagine you will enjoy this. Its a little different, very catchy and fun to listen to. Just don’t be surprised if you end up dancing around like a drunken fool (especially if you get drunken whilst listening). I don’t know what the word Svartsot actually means, but to me it means fun!