Yggdrasil // Irrbloss
Rating: 4.0/5.0 —A remarkable record.
Label: Grandmaster Music
Websites: yggdrasil-sweden.com | myspace.com/yggdrasilofficial
Release Dates: EU: 2011.04.25 | US: 06.07.2011 [Digitally: 04.25.2011]
Yggdrasil is a new band to me, though Irrbloss (“Will-o-wisps”) is their third album. I know that there are a ton of folk metal bands out there, which makes actually going out and looking for new folk metal a very challenging endeavor. Like any underground scene there’s going to be a lot of shit, so sifting through that all sometimes is more effort than its worth. Fortunately for me, there are others with more patience than I who directed me to Sweden’s Yggdrasil and I am very glad that they did so.
These guys formed in 2001, which means that they’ve had 10 years to perfect their craft and Irrbloss is definitely a step in that direction. The music is black metal based, in a way, but more rock beats than blast beats and most of it is punctuated with flutes, jawharps and harmonized clean vocals in 3 to 5 parts (mostly male voices and a single female voice) which give it a choral feel that adds to a mystical sound. The lead vocals are largely screamed in a bit of a tame rasp, but these extreme vocals are offset by the fact that the music is beautifully melodic and laced with gorgeous melodies and harmonies. It’s funny, because in a sense it’s very hard to be extreme when your music is so damn pretty.
Every song on here walks a fine line between Bathory, Vintersorg, Otyg and Fejd. This is a fine lineage of musicians to be compared to, to say the least. The chuggy black metal is obviously in the vein of veins of Bathory, and best illustrated by songs like “Tokikvad” and “Skaldefader”. The Vintersorg and Otyg feels are separate, of course, but the ubiquitous folk melodies carried on guitar and the use of female vocals, which litter the album, are reminsicent of the latter, while blending this into sort of Ulver influenced black metal is definitely more along the lines of the former like in the track “Bergtagen”. And finally, the instrumentation, use of flute and the general coming together of parts is really reminds me of Fejd, which I think is about as high a compliment as one can get in the Swedish folk metal scene, but especially the track “Norrland” really reminds me of those folk metal masters.
That said, Yggdrasil does have a sound all their own that doesn’t feel too overtly derivative, even if it’s not exactly breaking new ground. I can say that I equally enjoyed all the songs on here, though I liked “Skaldefader” the least and I liked “Norrland,” “UppÃ¥kra” (especially the vocal harmonies) and “Tokikvad” the best. I think these guys get the best when they really get further into the black metal side of things. It offers an excellent contrast to the beauty of the melodic structures that they offer, and I find that to be pleasing. Without pain there would be no pleasure, and here the beauty of the folk melodies stands out from the heaviness and rawness of the material. That said, I do think it’s kind of cute that a band from SkÃ¥ne is writing a song about Norrland.
So fans of folk metal, this is definitely something you should check out, because Irrbloss is excellent folk metal. While some of the music feels a bit simplistic at times, these are basically just folkvisor (simple folk melodies or songs) mixed with black metal, so it’s hard to not just let yourself get taken into the mood. I think this is where the band truly succeeds as the record continues on. At 43 minutes it’s a perfect length to really just sit and enjoy the mood and the feel. There is a natural melancholy to Swedish folk music because of the use of harmonic minor, and Yggdrasil uses that to their advantage in painting aural images of Swedish history and the countryside. VÃ¤l gjort!