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Review: Myrkgrav - Trollskau, Skrømt og Kølabrenning
Trollskau, Skrømt og Kølabrenning

Label: Det Germanske Folket
Year released: 2006
Duration: 44:19
Tracks: 11
Genre: Black Metal

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: January 11, 2009
Reviewed by: Brett Buckle
Readers Rating
Trollskau, Skrømt og Kølabrenning

Rated 5/5 (100%) (3 Votes)

Folk elements are not uncommon in Black Metal, especially in the sub-genre of Viking Metal, and many top quality bands have been very successful in blending traditional folk tunes and instruments into the cold and vicious riffage of Black Metal. The gradual introduction of this approach has long since crossed the half way point and we find ourselves with many great metal bands that push their folk elements to the fore and let them drive the songs. Myrkgrav is one of these latter kinds of bands. Hailing from the frosty moutains of ├ůsa in Norway, this one man band is the brainchild of one Lars Jensen with the aid of several session/studio vocalists or instrumentalists, and here with Trollskau, Skrømt og Kølabrenning he has created something really special.

A good deal of Folk Metal falls into the love it or leave it category, with those not attuned to the folk sensibilities often left in the cold. That is not the case on Trollskau, Skrømt og Kølabrenning, an album of warm folk tunes supercharged with some oft furious Black Metal and, on occasion, more traditional metal stylings. There are no traditional folk instruments present on this album; Lars plays all instruments (with the exception of some bass tracks), and the folk melodies are carried by the guitars or the keyboards in equal measure, uniformly well crafted in all respects. The albums production is full and warm with each instrument ably represented in the mix, and even though the keyboards often supply a melody line, this is a guitar album through and through. The strong distorted riffs playing under often soaring melodies are carried ably by solid, if somewhat by-the-numbers, drumming which mixes the pace up with blast beats well represented and expertly performed — there is no blasting for the sake of blasting here, and when the drums ramp up it always seems to be just what was called for. The music shifts effortlessly between all acoustic balladic moments, mid-paced guitar focused folk sections and vicious tremolo-picked Black Metal blasting, and never feels forced for the variety. In this regard the albums opener "Gygra & St. Olav" really sets the pace, being one of the most tracks with a little bit of all influences present. Mr. Jensen's vocals swap frequently between a warm and earthy clean tone and some wonder extreme Black Metal screaming, and in either approach he can really sing, and often supplies some soothing backing vocals for his main voice.

This brings me to the lyrics which are all in Norwegian, and more specifically in Lars' dialect of "Ringeriksdialect". The introduction in the book explains that this dialect is a more direct way of speaking, but I guess those who do not speak Norwegian will have to take his word on that. The lyrics for each track are prefaced by an explanation of the inspiration for them, and it is here that Myrkgrav sets itself apart again. Instead of tales exclusively of Viking warriors and ancient battles, the stories in the lyrics are taken from local folk stories and are quite delightful in their range. We have a song about how Lars' great grandfather cut the throat of the local priest with a fiddle bow because the priest did not like music, a tale of a poor lad with a bad scalp condition and the story of how it was cured, and the story of those brave men who fought against the Christian invader Olav Tryggsvaon, to name just three — it really is wonderful to read these notes and it makes me wish I could understand the words to the songs.

To round out an excellent package, the CD booklet is beautifully done. To perfectly compliment the feel of the music, the pages have images of darkened skies and black mountains, creating an atmosphere that makes you feel as though you might be sitting in a small tavern room listening to these tales and songs next to a roaring fire with a large wooden mug of ale in your hand. The cover depicts the house where Lars and his ancestors lived and grew up, and this wonderful painting increases further the personal nature of the album.

If there is one criticism I would have for this album is that many of the songs do not seem to have a proper ending, with several of them simply stopping after a verse. It's not a big issue but it can be a little jarring on occasion. Conversely, the album itself ends perfectly with "Endetoner" carrying it out instrumentally on a melody that provides perfect closure to the album.

Fans of Folk Metal of any kind will feel wonderfully at home within the pages and songs of Trollskau, Skrømt og Kølabrenning — from the frequently furious "Tjernet", through the folky calm of "Mellomspell", to the proud traditional folk of "De To Spellemenn", there is plenty of variety to keep you interested. There is also plenty on this album for those who prefer more traditional metal without the folk elements, but as most cases you should try before you buy if folk is not your normal brew. Whilst the music itself is easily worth the price of admission I think you really need to sit down with the booklet to get the most out of this disc, it really is a full package where each part makes up a wonderful whole — something not many bands are able to achieve.

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