The dramatic cover art that adorns this third release from Icelandic folk viking metallers Skálmöld sets the scene so well you could quite easily imagine yourself immersed in the tumultuous seascape whilst absorbing the eight exhilarating songs contained within the album that hits off with “Að Vori” a soaring anthem driven sword wielding tune with a massively infective melody, and whilst my Icelandic is non-existent one can’t help but be dragged into the beat of the tune as the vocals drift from bawling deep roars to pagan style chants. After the blatant hook infested opener the album takes a sombre turn with “Með Fuglum” initially before a huge blast piece erupts from it without warning. As the song ventures into its verse style of solemnity the blasting phase in contrast is flagrantly violent as the vocals become screamed and a thrash break ensues ensuring the listener has to pay full attention.
Tagging this release into folk or viking metal does it a disservice but the general aim of that style is true but Skálmöld offer a veritable feast of ideas with the stalwart pounding on “Að Sumri” being underpinned by a virtual death metal like rhythm section as the vocals gently saunter off into a 70s like prog rock harmony. Harmony is an apt word for the start of “Með Drekum” with the song being extremely dense on the drum work the song makes your head nod in unison with the beat without you realising it. Clocking over seven minutes means the tune can unfold gradually into a multi layered song that can ensnare the listener on different levels. I kid you not “Að Hausti” has a keyboard sound, Hammond organ like, similar to Deep Purple or even Rainbow with Don Airey at the helm and it works magnificently to create a very bouncy song.
Closing the release are a trio of songs that start with the magisterial “Með Jötnum” a very upbeat folksy tune but drenched in deathly sensibilities to make it heavy yet transfixing on the ear as it builds up superbly before dropping back suddenly into a doom like feel and pagan chant. Songs as involved as this can get whole paragraphs devoted to them such are the twists and turns entrenched into the composition. I totally loved “Að Vetri” which is massively like Finntroll and a whole host of bands that fit this ilk of folk inspired Viking metal. I couldn’t decide if I would have preferred clean vocals for the verse portion but that’s just my preference as the growls are equally proficient in delivering the tunes damn catchy melody leaving the album to finish with “Með Griðungum” which begins in a tranquil laid back fashion before the drum work fills the void alongside a chunky riff. As with all songs clocking the nine minute mark, this one unfurls itself along various paths with double kick paving part and harmonised sections filling others, but all linked by the deftly played guitar work and some cracking lead breaks. The clean vocal break is awesome, enraptured in emotion it adds such sincerity to the song which by now has increased its pace substantially bordering death metal double bass heaviness. As expected the song throws itself off a cliff to leave a lingering guitar break, strapped with sentiment the vocal line possesses an inherent sorrow.
This laudable and gallant album is rife with ambitious instrumentation, song writing that few bands could only dream about, charismatic on every level, the whole project is a multi sensory experience and not many albums do that.
(9/10 Martin Harris)