There’s a list of bands and artists I have which barely anyone knows despite them being brilliant and I find this endlessly infuriating. Baldrs Draumar is definitely towards the top of that list and despite me having exactly no connections with their part of the world (Frisia) and their culture they’re a band that manages to evoke a certain feeling of belonging, a primal feeling that I’m sad to say seems to be getting somewhat lost in today’s society.
So you’ve never heard of Baldrs Draumar or Frisia, right? Well, the region covers bits of Netherlands and Germany and has a history of roughly 1500 years and with that its own language (which is quite similar to Dutch). The band sings exclusively in their native Frisian, which is, of course, brilliant and something I will always support, especially in folk metal. However, when I say folk metal this may not be entirely accurate as the band sort of interchangeably releases proper folk metal and also just pure folk songs. Their latest release “Njord,” which we’re taking a look at today, is mostly the latter.
War horns sound in the titular opener named after the god of the sea and there’s a clear sense of adventure as the story tells of Frisians on a sea voyage accompanied by Jormungandr but protected by Njord. The vocals manage to shine through right away, which is a very good sign as this could easily be a forgettable style of music with a poor vocalist, but not with Baldrs Draumar as they’re full of emotion and pull you in right at the start.
With “Thús op see” the album gets even catchier and it actually has really solid production, considering this is an independent band with presumably limited funds for recording their music. While the sound isn’t actually metal, but pure folk, there’s also a very clear similarity with some actual folk metal bands and I couldn’t possibly not count this band as part of the metal family. The guitar melodies are admittedly simplistic, yet that’s completely fine as the band’s purpose isn’t to make technically complex music, but to tell stories of their culture and that’s felt through their sound even if you don’t understand a word of the lyrics.
One of the many rules of metal (which I’ve come up with) is that an album, especially one of this nature, requires a drinking song and the Frisians have included not one but two. Both “Jul” and “Fan keardel en skiep” are some of the catchiest and most fun songs on the album, which only took me three or four listens before I could sing along to them. Although the latter is about shagging a sheep and I would advise that you maybe don’t do that. Unless you’re also a sheep. Or a ram.
The band sprinkles in very tasteful bits of accordion to their usual rhythm of acoustic guitar and various types of percussion, something which is very nicely noticeable on songs like “Skalden,” which talks about the band itself in a way – the singers in this Frisian story. I’ve been rather jovial in this review so far, but there’s more to this album than drinking songs and frivolity. It’s a story of life and a desire for freedom and battle and death – “De lêste Fries” is an eulogy to the man who travelled to the Faroes’ and after settling there died, leaving behind seven sons. There’s depth to this piece and it’s where “Njord” peaks in its musical expression.
With “Wat nea fergiet” the album finishes, leaving us to wonder just that – what not to forget. The record brings attention to the importance of one’s culture, one’s tribe and history. All the things that the modern world seems to have less and less space for. Because of that there’s a lovely duality to this release – it can be a fun listen with really entertaining songs that are mostly uplifting and great to sing along to, but it can also be the introspective experience that diving deeper into it can offer you. “Njord” is not a very technical release, it’s an emotional journey, but what kind of emotions it will evoke is very much up to you.
Release date: 18 November 2022
Written By: Didrik
2. Thús op see
7. Fan keardel en skiep
8. De lêste fries
10. Wat nea fergiet