So we’re back home after an 11 day trip to Sweden and Iceland, and everything that needed to be done upon our return is finally finished, so I find myself with a few hours left in the afternoon the day before I go back to work. So what to do? Well, seems like the perfect time to pull the first of the records I picked up on this trip off the shelf and give it a spin. And what better way to start than with the newest release by Icelandic viking-metallers Skálmöld.
Skálmöld has made my Top 5 “Best Of” year end lists twice, first with Börn Loka and then again with Skálmöld Og Sinfóniuhljómsveit Íslands. Will they make another visit to the Top 5 new releases with Vögguvisur Yggdrasils? Well, I’m about to find out.
A friend of mine told me that Vögguvisur Yggdrasils is a bit different than previous Skálmöld albums, but right out of the gate I’m feeling the need to don a horned helmet and pillage Scotland. The second song, “Niflheimur – Hèr Sefur Ís,” hit me like a war axe blow to the head with all the classic Skálmöld hallmarks – assaulting guitars, growled vocals with a melodic interlude, then driving to a relentless finish. After two songs I’m falling in love with Vögguvisur Yggdrasils.
The overall theme of the album falls into the realm of Norse mythology as does much of the band’s work. Yggdrasils is the tree that connects the nine worlds in the Norse mythos, and each of the nine tracks is named after one of those nine worlds, so it seems a safe bet that’s the overarching theme. Pretty cool and makes me wish I understood Icelandic so I could follow along.
The early tracks “Múspell” (realm of fire) and “Niflheimur” (realm of ice) are the two hardest on Vögguvisur Yggdrasils, and from there the album becomes more sonically varied and less reliant on pure in-your-face power. That’s not to say that the band goes soft on us – songs like “Niðavellir” (home of the dwarves) has some driving guitars and aggressive vocals, but it’s not all pure tests of strength and manhood. The album isn’t the full-on sonic assault that was 2014s Með Vættum, instead bringing more of the Celtic element and vocal harmonies to the mix.
Napalm Records produced multiple versions of Vögguvisur Yggdrasils, with at least three different colors of vinyl released, all limited to 400 copies or less. And I lucked out because my friends over at Reykjavik’s Lucky Records put aside a signed copy for me following the band’s record signing event at the store. I’m not normally a big time autograph guy, but this is pretty cool.
I definitely give Vögguvisur Yggdrasils two thumbs up. I only wish it came with a download card so I could listen on my iPod as well. I may have to order a digital copy, because it’s that good.