Given the whole history of medieval Scandinavia and where the vikings actually came from as a rule, it is surprising to me that there are not more bands from Denmark that have jumped onto this whole Viking Metal thing that has been swelling up in metal for the last decade or so. No, instead it was basically introduced by a Swede in the 1980s and has been carried on primarily by Swedes and Norwegians who do the style well. But it was not the Swedes that the Englishmen were so afraid of, but the Danes. There was even a law (and a word for it) where they called the money that was paid in tribute to the Vikings who were threatening to invade a certain area: “Danegeld”. It is true that (what would be modern day) Norwegians were involved in these raids, and so, too, were the Rus, or Swedish Vikings. But the Danes are the Vikings you learn about. “Sure,” you say, “but this point is pedantic and long-winded. You’re Angry Metal Guy not Angry History Nerd.” Good point. But my point is this: very little Danish viking metal exists. The only band I’ve heard of is Svartsot, who has just released their second album of folk influenced, medieval Scandinavian metal songs.
The world is better for the existence of Svartsot, however. Mulmets Viser is a really enjoyable collection of folk influenced, melodic death metal tracks by this Danish sextet. The style isn’t terribly unlike things you’ve probably heard before as a fan of folk metal, that’s for certain. Bands like Finntroll, Otyg and others would be sorely treated if they were not mentioned in a description of the sound. The band uses mandolins, whistles and accordions to make their particular brand of catchy as hell folk metal. Stylistically they lean towards death metal, and have a growl as the primary vocals on the record even at times when clean voices would seem more appropriate, but 99% of the time this works out convincingly.
While there are not lyrics included, or translations of the lyrics really, in the promo material there was a really fascinating piece with the liner notes from the album which I found to be fascinating and which shows the depth to which these guys are going when it comes to lyrics. Instead of focusing on the ÃsatrÃº, like so many bands do, or writing wistfully about what a great country Denmark must have been in the ages of the past like some overrated black metal and folk metal bands have done, Svartsot instead writes about history for the most part, with a few simpler songs about masculinity thrown in for good measure. (This is metal afterall.) For this reason, the songs read a bit like a Scandinavian History course: covering the first Viking raid in recorded history (Lindisfarne in England in 793) to writing about King Ã†thelred II (the Unready) who paid the Danes 10,000 pounds of gold (i.e., the Danegeld) to not ransack his ass.
Honestly, this is one of the better folk metal records I’ve heard recently. The tracks are well-conceived, well-performed and caaatchy. Angry Metal Girlfriend did her fair share of silly, impression folk dancing while I was listening to this album so it should give you an idea of the feel of this music. But unlike bands like MetsatÃ¶ll or Fejd, these guys are still more rooted in death metal, which makes the music still more aggressive and fun to listen to from an energetic stand point. You could drive to this music, listen to it while drinking with your buddies are just or just plain rock it out while doing something else. The word “visa” in Swedish (and I’m assuming in Danish as well) means basically “folk melody”, a simple melody which is catchy, simple and worth knowing by heart and singing when intoxicated. That pretty much describes Svartsot.