Raise your horns, light the camp fire and blend with nature! If you like traditional songs in Norwegian, Byrdi is your world. Folk-tribal drums, acoustic guitars and epic vocals emitted with crystal clarity covers it but this is far too mundane a description. From the word go, these are inspiringly epic songs with passion, beauty and tradition all weaved in. Harmonies, deep vocals and a mystical aura take us into the world of Nordic culture, nature, life, death and beyond.
Quite apart from the atmospherics, the songs are fresh. “Ansur” has a lively toe-tapping rhythm yet thanks to those choral vocals, the spoken words there is added dimension, which makes the listening a pleasure. “Tid” (Time) has a steadier acoustic rhythm and is best described as an atmospheric folk song. It would be worthy of the International Folk Festival, which takes place near me. I’m sure the harmonies and beauty and Norwegian horn would blend into the Cambridge air and go down very well. The melancholy brings Opeth acoustic tracks to mind but this is well and truly ensconced in Nordic culture – a bit of Galar, maybe, Tenhi and most definitely reminiscent of Finntroll’s acoustic “Visor om Slutet” (2003). “Den Kvasse Nut” (The Sharp Nut) is imperial and traditional in its instrumentals, including the wonderful sound of the Jew’s harp or jaw harp – this reminded me now of Moonsorrow as they paint their Finnish images of dark forests and warriors and all-embracing nature. If “Ansur” was light, “Myrpesten” is the sound of the dark. But it is no less beautiful with its pure harmonies and haunting female vocal line floating through the darkly presented acoustic line, which itself is like a rain shower.
The dark theme is maintained with “Ren” (Pure). The deep and pure vocals once again produce perfect balance with the sombre instrumentals and gently rising tension. It is the balance of nature and man. It is also very sinister, hypnotic and calming. “Celebrata” is like a spiritual hymn, and I came to realise that the unity that comes from these Nordic songs amounts to their equivalent of a Hindu mantra or a Buddhist chant. The willowy flute and the steady clapping are simple. “Celebrata” is Eastern in style and utterly overpowering in impact. It is different in musical style but united in the immense spirit, which pervades this collection. So too “Graanande Ymir” has the aura of a Nordic mantra. The vocalists preach in harmony. The female vocalist’s tones can be heard. We are in a higher place now. The initial vocal on “Lite vet Mennesket” (Mankind Does Little) sound distant as if sung from a mountain top during a storm. This is the prelude to another majestically melancholic ode. There are no techniques other than the heavenly powers of the vocals, the acoustic guitar and the thumping drum. The story is told but in Norwegian so I know not of what. What I do know is that this is a powerful, mobile song, which belies its gentility by the subtlety of its transformation. In fact it deviates from the norm of the previous eight songs by being more progressive and prone to mood changes as each passage represents the weight and importance that this whole album conveys. I don’t need an understanding of Norwegian to tell me that.
Byrdi describe their music as “Scandinavian nature music” on their web site. “Ansur: Urkraft” is pure and uplifting, and like the picture on its cover, will transport you away to a spiritual world of woods, forests, nature and spectacular sunrises and sunsets. This is a world of sadness and calm, but through the delivery of these songs it becomes a world of perfect balance.
(9.5/10 Andrew Doherty)