Hot on the heels of Finnish folk metal legends Ensiferum‘s newest platter, the Great Danes in Svartsot also released their latest slab of gnome dancing, beer swilling folk noise. Though I have a limited cranial capacity for this kind of music, I’ve always enjoyed the strange brews these loony Hamlets fermented over the years. A lot of that affection is due to their slick mixture of infectious and festive folk melodies with heavy death roars. The combination always struck me as silly and comical, but also listenable and addicting. Vældet, their fourth album, doesn’t tinker with their established folksy ways, but it does feel more mature and thoughtful than anything they’re done before. Whether that’s a plus or minus for this kind of rowdy, pub music, I’m not entirely sure, but it’s still a holly jolly experience, perfect for late night drunken romps through your neighbors prized victory garden. And oh, the musicianship!
If you’ve heard any of Svartsot‘s back catalogue (or any folk metal at all, really), you’re in for no surprises here. Opener “Midsommer” rocks out like a lost Korpiklaani cut with Johan Hegg (Amon Amarth) on vocals. It’s quite jaunty and sure to put a hop in your step, while also remaining heavy and throwing around guitar harmonies reminiscent of early In Flames. It’s instantly likeable, but like much of the album, grows more interesting with repeat spins. “Urtekonen” starts out sounding a lot like Destruction‘s “Reject Emotions” before skipping off into Lord of the Dance territory and sports some sweet Noumena flavored melo-death riffs.
“Kilden – I marker og i lunde” is my personal favorite due to the raucous Amon Amarth riffing paired with an irresistibly hooky, rabble-rousing chorus. This one will get to you even if you loathe this kind of music. Elsewhere, “I mørkets skær” introduces a trippy, slightly ’60s feel to the party before settling into a mid-paced, flute-heavy grinder, and closer “Ved vældets vande” borrows a lot from latter-day Amorphis in the riffing and song structure.
While I wouldn’t say any song is weak, a few run past the expiration point, making an otherwise pleasant trip feel too long. The worst culprit is “Markedstid” which starts off strong like the soundtrack to a village hoedown circa 700 A.D. The Viking hollers with horde shouted support fit perfectly with the speedy pace and fiddle plucking, but it just keeps going and going, and by the four minute mark it feels like it should end, but it lumbers on for several more minutes. This is also a rather front-loaded affair, with a noticeably lesser back half.
As always, the vocals of one Thor Bager (of Bag End) are good fun. He sounds a lot like Johan Hegg at times, but mixes in blackened rasps and cackles with his standard issue roar. The dichotomy of the very heavy vocals and often fruity instrumentals are what makes their material pop, though it’s often quite goofy. Greatly adding to the material’s success is the guitar-work of Cris Frederiksen and new gun Michael Alm. A lot of what they do borrows from Finnish melo-death luminaries, but the classic Gothenburg style also rears its head with nods to In Flames and Dark Tranquility. Add to that formidable foundation, a smattering of mandolin, bagpipes and a cosmic buttload of flute and you have quite the thick musical stew. And yes, the flute is often as prominent as the guitars, for better or worse.
Vældet doesn’t break any molds or step one foot outside the orthodox folk metal box, but it’s still a fun listen with above average playing and I prefer it ever so slightly to the new Ensiferum. Four albums in and I’ve enjoyed them all, even though this isn’t my favorite kind of metal. Looks like the way to my heart is an angry metal flute. Who knew?
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Of Wood and Iron Productions | Nail Records
Websites: www.svartsot.dk | facebook.com/svartsot
Release Dates: EU: 2015.02.20 | NA: 02.23.2015