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Skálmöld: Baldur

Do you like your Viking metal to be both authentic and epic? Then you should check out Skálmöld's Baldur. With lyrics sung in Icelandic and several elements from Norse folk music, Skálmöld deliver the goods on this album like a berzerker warrior delivers the deathblow from his battleaxe to the head of an Anglo-Saxon soldier trying, in vain, to defend his homeland from the Viking invaders.

The album starts out with the intro 'Heima', a Norse chant which first consists of a male singer and a bunch of children singing along accompanied by the sounds of a fireplace, giving the impression of a Norse skald performing a traditional song with his family (I think that 'heima' means home, but I am not sure). Heima then morphs into an epic sounding male choir, and in a way this sets the tone for the entire album in terms of epicness and atmosphere. Following from the feel of Norse folk music, the overall atmosphere of this album is mostly dark and melancholic while the use of multi-voice choirs, Norse melodies, synth effects and twin guitar melodies generate the epic feel that very much characterizes this album.

The folk elements consists primarily of intros performed on Norse instrumentation and folksy melodies performed mainly on guitars and keyboards although some of the traditional Norse instrumentation sometimes sneak into the main body of a couple of tunes – and when that happens, these instruments are kept in the background such that they are present without stealing the thunder from the metal guitars. The most prominent folk element, however, lies in the haunting vocal harmonies and vocal melodies which are associated with Norse culture. Metalwise, this album is anchored in a dark blend of speed metal and traditional metal with a couple of references to power metal now and then. There are both uptempo tracks, such as 'Upprisa', 'För', 'Daudi' and heavier tracks like 'Árás' and 'Valhöll', but most are kept at a midtempo pace which suits the underlying drive of the music quite well. There is plenty of melody throughout the album, a lot of which is provided by lead guitars (there are a lot of twin guitar things on this album, which is something I've always been a big fan of). The lead vocalist makes use of harsh semi-growled vocals and, while he does an awesome job of it, I enjoy the clean vocal sections more, probably because they are less common in metal, and thus more novel and interesting, than aggressive semi-growling is.

As for the musicianship, it is top notch across the board, and the production is also perfectly balanced in the mix, and the overall sound is big and epic, which suits the music itself perfectly.

Baldur is authentic Viking metal – big and epic – and certainly deserves a place among the classics of the Viking metal genre. It is the metal music equivalent of the Icelandic sagas.

Track Listing:
1. Heima
2. Árás
3. Sorg
4. Upprisa
5. För
6. Draumur
7. Kvađning
8. Hefnd
9. Dauđi
10. Valhöll
11. Baldur
12. Kvađning (edit)

Added: July 29th 2011
Reviewer: Kim Jensen
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 2868
Language: english

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