Forndom – Faþir Review

When we talk about “power” in the music we review, it usually translates roughly into one of two categories: “loud” and “emotional.” More often than not, it translates into both. Metal music strives to be powerful, whether in the form of “crushing” riffs, “anguished” screaming, or “epic” symphonies. I muse on these definitions because, when pressed to come up with a word to describe Faþir, the second full-length release from Sweden’s Forndom, “powerful” is the word I feel aligns most strongly with the album. And yet, there are no riffs; there is no screaming; there are no symphonies. Faþir is an album of Nordic-themed, largely ambient folk music by L. Swärd, and, while it defies our usual interpretation of powerful music, it stands as one of the most memorable and moving albums I’ve heard this year.

In case you missed it earlier, Faþir is not a metal album, nor is Forndom a metal project, which is fine. Electric angriness would severely take away from the earnestness and openness of the music, which is its primary strength. Traditional percussions and ritualistic strings make up the core of the music, but its heart is Swärd’s voice. His chants, calls, and melodies transform the landscape around you, and if I can’t understand what he’s saying, I can always understand the ideas, emotions, and beliefs that power his performance. Whether in the wistful yearning in “Hemkomst” or the ritualistic chants of “Yggdrasil,” Swärd’s layered and plaintive vocal performance is complexity disguised as simplicity, nuance presenting as straightforwardness.

This is a good descriptor for Faþir in general terms too; at first glance, it feels like a simple album. “Finnmarken” opens with Forndom’s traditional drumming style, and a single stringed instrument cuts through the gloom with serious melancholy. The four-minute-long instrumental continues on this path, repeating the main melody without significant variation. But every repeated listen of the song brings out more and more detail; in the drumming, the slight, emotive variations on the strings that build to the song’s climax, and in the gloomy shroud that fills the silences in between. It’s uniquely moving, particularly for those of us who find our homes in metal; I have no band to really compare them to. In Eluveitie’s Evocation albums, you have the sound of a folk metal band looking inward; in Winterfylleth’s The Hallowing of Heirdom, there is a spirit of storytelling that transcends the whole; and with Árstíðir lífsins, there’s an all-consuming presence of metal entwined with the traditional folk spirit. Forndom is simply Forndom; I’ve never heard a more honest telling of Nordic tradition in this style, which, in many ways, makes Faþir one of the most complicated albums I’ve recently heard.

That likely sounds like higher-than-life praise, or hollow boasting — or, perhaps, an admission of inexperience — especially since Faþir is not a very challenging listen. For one thing, the album sounds incredible. At times, the album is almost cinematic in scope; certainly the opener, “Jakten” sends the impression of a journey about to begin. The album is mixed, produced, and mastered to reflect this larger-than-life quality. Each song is allowed to carry its own weight, countless subtle nuances easily audible without distracting from the cohesive whole — and by the way, this is definitely an album to listen to all at once. Fortunately, the whole clocks in at only thirty-five minutes, which feels exactly right for this kind of project. Faþir hits a welcome sweet spot between wanting more and being too much. It’s exactly long enough for me to be comfortable spinning it twice — which is not something I do often with albums of any style.

As I near the end of my allotted word count, I still feel like I’ve failed to capture the essence of what makes Forndom and Faþir so powerful in my mind. All I can really say, then, is that L. Swärd’s music is honest; refreshingly, beautifully honest. And this means it’s also well thought-out, well-composed, well-played, and well-produced. It’s a rare album that has earnestness and skill in equal measure, which makes it consistently enjoyable, and a newfound staple in my playlist for the budding spring.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Nordvis Produktion
Websites: | |
Released Worldwide: April 3rd, 2020

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