Ah, yes. Skálmöld’s “Með Vættum”. It’s pretty self-explanatory, to the point where I hardly feel a full review is necessary.
Still, just in case you don’t make it a point to be aware of the happenings of small Icelandic folk metal bands (though why that might be boggles my beard), these guys are one you should certainly pay attention to.
Skálmöld, despite sounding like the technical name for the weirdest bacterial growth to ever grace horror movies, they’re doing actually their bit to save the frailty of human life. See, “Skálmöld” translates to “age of swords”, or lawlessness, which is a good reason to like this band for two reasons. The first is that if you ever find yourself in a compromising situation with a Reykjavickian and are confronted by angry relatives, tearing your shirt off and screaming Skálmöld is usually enough to convince the family you’re enough of a warrior to marry your way in. The second, far more likely scenario that Skálmöld will come in useful, is that, should the ice-giants return, you’ll know what they’re shouting when they stave your skull in with a club.
It’s a hell of a standard to set yourself, but with Með Vættum, their fourth in five years, they live up to it. It starts with a real hard metal wail, a wall of sonic force 15 seconds long constructed from electric riffing and mortared in human screams. Then, with your defences suitably shattered, the shamanic chanting sets it. It’s genuinely exiting to listen to, with good energy and a rustic, folksy charm that somehow only gets more exiting when the electric soloing sets in.
Ad Hausti’s steady rhythm would sound at home beaten from a leather drum in a storm, complimented with some truly epic guitar and the level of brutality you expect for a language developed solely for the parched throats of fur-coated badasses, screaming through a blizzard about bears.
Musically, they’re unusually heavy folk metal, with the harsh vocals and tone that Icelandic metal has become famous for. Not that I speak Icelandic, so this could be anything from a harkening to the return of the frost giants to a stirring petition to save local arts programs, and I couldn’t care less either way. The spirit’s what we’re here for, and these guys have got it in spades.
It’s the kind of thing that really earns the title “saga”. And not the Candy Crush bullshit, real Vikings vs Ragnarok stuff. There’s a thread that moves through all of these songs, most likely stole from an epic tapestry that links them together into a cohesive, inspiring hole. Quite frankly, they may be the most interesting Icelandic folk metal band active today.
Album: Með Vættum
Released: November 24th 2014
Label: Napalm Records
Score: 8/9 Hammers