It’s fair to say the doom metal scene is a tad cramped, and it will take something special to shine brightly in the hazy fog that surrounds the genre. Could this second full length from Oslo garage stoner rockers, Golden Core, be a luminous nugget hidden among the rough? It’s important to point out that when this two piece formed in 2014 they had a combined age of just twenty years old; their debut, Norwegian Stoner Machine, was released just two years later. Upon release of their sophomore, Fimbultýr, drummer/vocalist Johannes Thor Sandal is a wise old head at seventeen years old, while guitarist Simen Jakobsen Harstad is barely out of short trousers at a mere fifteen years old. It seems incomprehensible that at such a young age they have released two albums; securing the services of Yngve Andersen (Blood Command) and Kurt Ballou (Converge/legendary knob twiddler extraordinaire) to respectively produce and mix the second, while also supporting high profile bands such as Napalm Death.
The eight tracks tend to belie their creator’s tender years, fashioning an adept doomy stoner sound which doesn’t rest on its laurels. Fimbultýr is a concept album based on Nordic mythology, particularly focusing on the god Odin. The lyrics refer to Old Norse Skaldic poetry and poetic Edda and are sung entirely in their mother tongue, which, if like me your Norwegian is a little rusty, means they may well be incomprehensible. As is doom’s want there’s a huge doth of the Viking helmet to Black Sabbath and the usual suspects such as Down, however there’s also some curveballs. ‘Rúnatal’ has an 80’s sci-fi intro with a bassy guitar and some thumping drums, like they’re being smashed with Mjölnir, before a lone filthy guitar beckons a smoky, bluesy, guitar riff. Unfortunately as good as it is musically, this song and others suffer from the vocals sounding like they are sung by a tiny green goblin, reminiscent of a troll hiding under a bridge enticing Billy Goats to their demise.
‘Hrafnaspá’ is upbeat with a ‘70s rock vibe, flowing on a fuzzy riff, fuzzier than the floor of Asgard’s premier Turkish barber’s on a Saturday morning, before the entrance of some unexpected ethereal synths which are at odds with the rest of the song. While ‘Buslubæn’ has the audacity to feature a choir; a slow burn with pounding drums, bursting into life with a scream and dirty Eyehategod-esque guitars, before fading out and being replaced by twinkly melodies and (brace yourselves metal heads)…a glockenspiel. For all their experimentation it’s the relatively conventional title track which steals the show. It’s raw, with a slow monotonous molten sludgy thick guitar that sounds like it was brewed in the steamy depths of the Eyjafjallajökull. It oozes a sluggish groove but unexpectedly changes pace to conclude with a thrashy hard-core tinged finale.
Golden Core are a rarity; they shelter under the doom/stoner umbrella, and there’s enough here to keep any self-respecting doom monger happy, but there’s also plenty of experimentation. Forays into softer, lighter realms may put some noses out of joint but they are a band in the relative early stages of their existence and already they’re pushing the boundaries of their music. Fimbultýr isn’t perfect; it has an intentionally rough sound, may occasionally lack a third member on bass and there’s no getting away from how cringe worthy the vocals are at times. However, it’s worth remembering how ridiculously young these guys are; to create a record this accomplished at such an age is impressive. It’s only their second offering but it seems that Golden Core are pushing the stoner/doom envelope into some interesting new directions. A Thor-oughly decent effort and it’s intriguing to see where they go from here.
(6/10 James Jackson)