Label: Napalm Records
Release date: 30th of September, 2016
The Icelandic pagans of Skálmöld are back with their 4th studio record Vögguvísur Yggdrasils (translated as Yggdrasil’s lullabies/songs). The previous record Með vættum – read the review here – (and the albums before) were much appreciated among different reviewers on our site and thus the expectations about Vögguvísur Yggdrasils were high.
Alike Með vættum, the musicians have released another concept album. Lets face it: this approach fits flawlessly with the band’s main inspiration: Icelandic lore and myths. A short recap on the album title: Yggdrasil, the world tree in Nordic mythology that connects the nine worlds in this particular cosmology. Skálmöld takes the listener on an exhilarating journey through these worlds: Múspell, Niflheimur, Niðavellir, Miðgarður, Útgarður, Álfheimur, Ásgarður, Helheimur and Vanaheimur.
I’m all for bands singing in their native language and especially when those lyrics are based on stories from their own homeland, but there was a slight *pang* not being able to hear directly what the six piece is singing about. On the other hand, it adds to the atmosphere.
Stylistically, Vögguvísur Yggdrasils is a little hard to pin down. Skálmöld is mostly lumped with folk/pagan metal bands like Korpiklaani, Moonsorrow, Heidevolk and so on, even though the group’s music – especially on this record – leans more to heavy metal à la Maiden. There is a strong power metal feel as well: the upbeat pace, the vulcanic riffs and melodics (sometimes a bit too sweet, for example on Álfheimur). Leaving the categorizing aside, the record is very riff-orientated in a dynamic way, which makes it pleasant to listen to.
The variety in riffs (hard-hitting, fiery on Muspell, or folky on Nidavellir) combined with choirs and small elements, like the sound of the anvil on Nidavellir, give each song their own identity, or actually are a symbol of the world that you are in as a listener. The only complaint I have about Vögguvísur Yggdrasils is that the characteristics of the nine worlds could have been more outspoken. They are present, but it might have given a bit more color to the individual songs to intensify it (that said, I’m also happy that it is not up to an Amon Amarth level of cheesiness).
All in all, Vögguvísur Yggdrasils is an extremely pleasant album to listen to. It is catchier than its predecessors and if guitars are you thing, give it a go. It will do well among the many folk/pagan/viking metal fans out there!