On the 30th of September the Icelandic Folk/Viking metal band Skálmöld unleashed their latest album Vögguvísur Yggdrasils. For the people unfamiliar with this band, Skálmöld is an Icelandic band that got formed back in 2009. During that time they have released a total of 3 albums and 1 live album with the Iceland symphony orchestra. They have since rapidly grown in popularity having recently played festivals such as 70000 tons of metal and Metaldays. Despite all lyrics being in their native language, their music is appreciated worldwide. Skálmöld has chosen to dedicate this album to the nine worlds. Every song is about a different plain and you can feel the intensity of each world within each song. It’s actually very brilliantly done!
The album starts of with Muspell. The melodic intro alongside the pounding of the drums is perfect for this album. Björgvin’s and Baldur’s singing hasn’t changed since their first album and the classic combination of the drums, guitars, bass and keyboard are also very familiar. The intensity increases throughout the song and they don’t let up the tempo until the very end, which in my opinion is one of the best of any Skálmöld song. I don’t speak Icelandic but I know what they’re singing about is definitely not the nicest of places to be.
In Norse mythology, Muspell or Muspellheim (“home of desolation”) is a flaming, torrid region, the land of fire far to the south. It is opposed to Niflheim and whose animating beams made the ice in Niflheim melt and created the first living beings. The celestial bodies were made from its sparks which flew out into space. Muspell is ruled by the fire giant Surt, whose wife is Sinmore.
At the final battle of Ragnarok Surt will set the World Tree on fire and kill the unarmed god Freyr.
Next place we visit Niflheim in their song Niflheimur. Although it has a slower tempo than Muspell, it doesn’t take away the fact that you will find yourself banging your head nor will it bore you. The riffs keep the song interesting and the added subtle touch of organs, underlying beat and an increase in pace make the pretty long, monotonous chorus more than reasonably bearable.
Niflheim (“house of mists”) is the far northern region of icy fogs and mists, darkness and cold. It is situated on the lowest level of the universe. The realm of death, Helheim is part of the vast, cold region. Niflheim lies underneath the third root of Yggdrasil, close to the spring Hvergelmir (“roaring cauldron”). Also situated on this level is Nastrond, the Shore of Corpses, where the serpent Nidhogg eats corpses and gnaws on the roots of Yggdrasil.
After Ragnarok, there will be a hall here for the punishment of murderers, oath breakers, and philanderers.
Now comes Nidavellir! Anybody that has been somewhat following Skálmöld will have heard this song. It was released as a promo about a month before release and was warmly embraced by all. The peppy intro makes this one of the happier songs of the album. Even if you don’t know the words, I’m sure you’ll find yourself creating something that sounds very similar just so you can sing along and be a part of it.
NIÐAVELLIR is the home of the Dwarfs and the song tells the story of their clan lying down to rest in their cave. The floor is clean, plenty of space for everyone and Náinn sings for the rest of them. Niðavellir is a good place to spend your days, play, work and rest. The Dwarfs are happy.
Midgardur is next on the list. This is the home of man. Despite the song being about our realm, the intro takes you to another world. Just like Niflheimur, it starts off slow and picks up speed. The classic choir like singing we’ve heard so much in previous Skálmöld albums features here as well.
Midgard is the realm where humans live, the Earth. It was created when the god Odin and his brothers Vili and Ve slayed the giant Ymir. In Norse mythology, the world was seen as a gigantic tree, called the World Tree or Yggdrasil, around which existed nine realms, each at a different level. The roots supported the tree and its branches shaded the world.
The roots of the tree reached down into the underworld. On the surface, Midgard is surrounded by a giant serpent. Bifrost is a huge bridge connecting Midgard to Asgard, the home of the gods.
This album wouldn’t be complete without giants. Luckily enough they’ve got you covered. The fifth song is Utgardur, also known as Jotunheim. Just like every track here you start imagining what they’re singing about. What pops into my head are giants marching through rugged, mountainous terrain, possibly on their way to war or at least preparing for it by felling trees to craft weapons and such.
Jotunheim (pronounced “YO-tun-hame;” Old NorseJötunheimr, “World of the Giants”) is one of the Nine Worlds, and, as the name implies, the homeland of the giants (Old Norsejötnar).
As our journey continues, we enter the realms of the elves in Alfheimur. It was said that the elves were the most beautiful of beings and of course this had to be reflected here. However, to me this was one of the lesser songs. The slow pace and constant repeating made it kind of tedious to listen to, especially after several times. Yet the band did a good job at reflecting the meaning of Alfheim in their song.
Alfheim (pronounced “ALF-hame;”Old NorseÁlfheimr, “The Homeland of the Elves”) is, as the name suggests, the world inhabited by the elves, a class of demigod-like beings in the pre-Christian mythology and religion of the Norse and other Germanic peoples.
The music in Asgardur easily conjures up a feeling of honour and bravery. The different levels of intensity each describe a different aspect of this realm.
Asgard, Old Norse Ásgardr, in Norse mythology, the dwelling place of the gods, comparable to the Greek Mount Olympus. Legend divided Asgard into 12 or more realms, including Valhalla, the home of Odin and the abode of heroes slain in earthly battle; Thrudheim, the realm of Thor; and Breidablik, the home of Balder.
Helheimur is one of the fastest songs you’ll find on the CD. It gives a kind of thrash metal feel which is something I didn’t expect from these guys. Strangely enough though, it works. Well, for me it does at least. I can’t speak for everyone but if you like both thrash and folk/viking, you’ll love Helheimur!
Helheim (“house of Hel”) is one of the nine worlds of Norse mythology. It is ruled by Hel, the monstrous daughter of the trickster god Loki and his wife Angrboda.
This cold, dark and misty abode of the dead is located in the world of Niflheim, on the lowest level of the Norse universe. No one can ever leave this place, because of the impassable river Gjoll that flows from the spring Hvergelmir and encircles Helheim. Once they enter Helheim, not even the gods can leave. Those who die of old age or disease, and those not killed in battle, go to Helheim while those who die bravely on the battlefield go to Valhalla.
The entrance to Helheim is guarded by Garm, a monstrous hound, and Modgud. The giant Hraesvelg (“corpse eater”) sits at the edge of the world, overlooking Helheim. In the form of an eagle with flapping wings he makes the wind blow.
Just like every album they’ve released so far, there’s one very long song. In this case: Vanaheimur. The 9:18 minutes long track might not be for everyone but the fact that the song has a lot of different stages in it makes it sounds like a few songs rolled into one. This could make it more bearable since you won’t feel the length of it. As a finale it was a bit disappointing though. I expected something with more “Oompf”. Yet, the first song of the album fits so well after this track, that it doesn’t get boring at all to listen to this album on repeat. Instead it is a nice experience.
Vanaheim (Old NorseVanaheimr, “Homeland of the Vanir“) is one of the Nine Worlds that are situated around the world-tree Yggdrasil. As the name implies, it’s the home of the Vanir tribe of deities, who tend to be somewhat more associated with fertility and what we today would call “nature” than the other tribe of Norse deities, the Aesir, who have their home in Asgard.
All in all I really enjoyed reviewing this album. Skálmöld stays true to their sound by not altering much of the concept in their songs. I found the quality of the album to be superior to their previous album, Með vættum. Some of the songs seem to be dragged out a little bit but unless you binge listen to them they’re still very enjoyable. One of the beauties this band has is their icelandic lyrics and the fact that even though you don’t understand it, you know it’s awesome. Would be nice to see an english translation in the booklet next to the original lyrics though. Oh, and for the people that buy the limited edition, you get a bonus CD with cover songs and a few live tracks. See full tracklist below.
Giving this album a well deserved 9/10! Looking forward to seeing the band bring it live.
Release Date: September 30th, 2016
Label: Napalm Records
LTD Edition Bonus CD track listing:
10. Drink (Alestorm Cover)
11. Inní mér syngur vitleysingur (Sigur Rós Cover)
12. Nattfödd (Finntroll Cover)
13. Lazer Eyes (Thor Cover)
14. Helreið afa
15. Upprisa (Live)
16. Hefnd (Live)
17. Dauði (Live)