Swedish musician Rafn has been involved in no shortage of bands through his musical journey, from Abysmal Silence through Endless Woods and even with a bit of Sodomizing Christ going down. Hermóðr along with Mist and Deadlife seem to be his current on-going musical outlets and to say that he has a certain prolific flair would not be an understatement. Hermóðr is ‘The Brave’ of Norse myths and Skaldic poetry apparently and Hädanfärd means ‘Parting.’ For anything else on the narrative you can search yourself but musically olden traditions, spiritual nature and the emotions that go with it are summed up brilliantly and this is an album that is definitely going to take you back to bygone times and legends of old. It is not my first encounter with Rafn and Hermóðr and indeed on covering a reissue of first album Vinter (originally released in 2014) I observed it as being “perfect listening for hibernation and locking out the world rattling around outside for those of us in built up areas.” In a way this is too but as the gorgeous artwork and illustrations within the booklet suggest it would be perfect to listen to in the solitude of a mighty forest. With those in short supply around these parts it was on the stereo this went.
Although I have seemingly missed four albums and an absolute slew of EP’s, compilations, splits and various other releases from Hermóðr I was instantly transported to his world and found it a very comfortable place to be in. You can almost smell the scent of pine exuding from this release and don’t have the added trauma or being bitten to death by mosquitos or eaten by angry bears as you are pitched into the leafy glades within. Track titles talk of old forests, silence, fall and frozen rivers when translated and this is exactly where you find yourself as the music unfolds. Nothing is particularly hurried but there is a massive sense of isolation and barren places untouched for years conveyed within the depressive sounds here. Musically it could be said to plod but it does so in such a fashion that you are welcomed into its arms and gorgeously smothered. The melodies that Rafn conjures seem somewhat simplistic but work in a fashion that can only be described as hypnotic and wondrous. For those who love the repetitive nature of Burzum, early Drudkh, Austere and the likes of Vardan (who I have not heard from in far too long) this will be pure mournful poetry. Cadaverous but somewhat restrained vocals seep through the trees into these lush melodies giving them a tinge of sorrow and despair rather than unfettered anger. One gets the sense that although maybe lonely the wanderer of these lands is quite content with his lot. Occasional folky motifs and even a sense of quests full of bravado are also found amidst this great Northern Wilderness and there is a sense of majesty that is reminiscent of artists such as Summoning within its realms. At other times you are just left to relax contently and gaze into the wide beyond as things drift gently by.
The nocturnal chimes of Midnatt illustrate the muse at his creative peak perhaps. Like a hermit with nothing but the distant baying of wolves his music takes form but it speaks for itself and there is no need for samples of anything lurking outside. Very short instrumental piece Havsdimma is a cold synth piece that literally chills the bones as it looks at the stars filling the sky and at first it didn’t quite make sense but as it comes straight after a track translating as Midnight it really does in the sense you are maybe following a journey with the composer. Although you might not expect much in the way of surprises from an album such as this there is a big one on ‘Under frusen älv’ due to additional vocals courtesy of Nordic folk singer, songwriter Helga, another artist whose work is definitely worth seeking out.
I really liked this album on first spin and it is definitely a step up from the first album in quality and composition. I have a back catalogue here to fully explore myself but if you like honest evocative and atmospheric blackness this is a perfect starting point to embrace the great outdoors and places untouched by the modern world.
(8/10 Pete Woods)