Album Review – Skogen / Skuggorna Kallar (2018)

Weaving a tapestry of triumph and tragedy, loss and remembrance, this Swedish quartet translates the beauty and melancholy of their homeland into first-class Blackened Folk Metal.

Born in 2009 under a frozen Swedish moon in the city of Växjö, Blackened Folk Metal horde Skogen has their sonic pentagram of albums in homage to the stark, nebular beauty of their motherland. Formed by vocalist and bassist Joakim Svensson and guitarist and vocalist Mathias Nilsson, who played together in other bands and shared the same musical vision, Skogen (which means “forest” in Swedish) released their debut album Vittra, in 2009, followed by Svitjod, in 2011, Eld, in 2012, I Döden, in 2014, and finally Skuggorna Kallar (or “the shadows call” from Swedish), now in 2018, all blending the robustness of Black Metal with the melancholy of folk music in a captivating manner, weaving a tapestry of triumph and tragedy, loss and remembrance.

Possessed by the mysteries of nature and dedicated to paying homage to its majesty, both in light and darkness, Skogen will offer your avid ears a polarity of sounds felt in their music as subtly beautiful melodies and clean vocals are woven into the more pervasive darker tones that saturate Skuggorna Kallar, like the blanket of night, heavy with dew. Joakim and Mathias, accompanied by Jonathan Jansson on the guitar and L. Larsson on drums, as well as an array of fantastic guest musicians, deliver their most complete and darkest work to date in their new album, a must-have for fans of the cold and austere sounds of the North.

The opening track of the album Det Nordiska Mörkret, is also one of their two with a Swedish name, meaning “the Nordic darkness”, beginning in full force and as heavy and somber as it can be, where the anguished clean vocals by Joakim bring a touch of melancholy to the music while the background elements such as the whimsical bowed lyre by guest Vittervärja also enhance the song’s taste and impact considerably. Faster and leaning towards classic Folk Metal, När Solen Bleknar Bort (“when the sun fades away” from Swedish) presents more aggressive and cavernous vocals, with the music flowing smoothly thanks to the amazing riffage by the band’s guitar duo, not to mention L. Larsson’s precise beats; and their darkened sounds keep haunting our souls in Nebula, a gripping fusion of Folk, Black and Doom Metal, with the guitar lines by both Mathias and Jonathan sounding truly captivating, resulting in an enfolding sonority that will please all fans of such distinct underground metal genre.

An ominous, almost tribal bridge titled Omen sets the tone for the bitterly cold and neck-breaking Frostland, where L. Larsson and his rhythmic beats dictate the song’s pace while the band’s stringed trio fires some lancinating and thunderous riffs and punches in a vibrant display of Blackened Folk Metal. Then a somber atmosphere embraces one of their darkest compositions, The Suns Blood, with Joakim growling like a demonic entity while L. Larsson and his Doom Metal beats keep the music lugubrious and vile, also presenting guitar riffs and solos that bring more electricity to the overall result (as well as its folk, acoustic moments), whereas a giant wave of Black and Folk Metal arises in one of their boldest creations, the amazing Beneath the Trees, with all band members sounding crisp and aggressive, generating an epic ambience perfect for Joakim and his anguished gnarls, also feeling like two or three songs in one. Lastly, the bad offers us The Funeral, another 8-minute Folk Metal aria starting in a smooth, almost acoustic manner before exploding into beautiful extreme music, fading into a melancholic piano piece courtesy of guest musician Dísa, and then again getting back to the band’s puissant sonority until the song’s soulful ending.

In case you want to show your appreciation for Skogen, you can pay them a visit at their Facebook page for news, tour dates and other nice-to-know information, and of course buy your copy of Skuggorna Kallar (available for a full listen on YouTube) from their own BandCamp page, from the special page dedicated to Skogen at the Nordvis Produktion website, or from several other retailers like iTunes and Amazon. In a nutshell, Skogen more than succeeded in translating the beauty and melancholy of their beloved Sweden into their multi-layered folk music, carving their name as one of the most interesting and exciting groups from the underground Swedish metal scene.

Best moments of the album: När Solen Bleknar Bort, Nebula and Beneath the Trees.

Worst moments of the album: Frostland.

Released in 2018 Nordvis Produktion

Track listing   
1. Det Nordiska Mörkret 4:46
2. När Solen Bleknar Bort 4:54
3. Nebula 3:43
4. Omen 1:44
5. Frostland 4:24
6. The Suns Blood 4:33
7. Beneath the Trees 8:46
8. The Funeral 8:29

Band members
Joakim Svensson – vocals, bass
Mathias Nilsson – guitars, vocals
Jonathan Jansson – guitars, vocals
L. Larsson – drums, vocals

Guest musicians
Dísa – piano
Elis Edin Markskog – vocals
Vittervärja – bowed lyre

Album Review – Falls of Rauros / Vigilance Perennial (2017)

Feel embraced by the Black and Folk Metal thoroughly crafted by this American quartet, ranging from a multilayered bout of aggression to beautiful moments of music that twist with a powerful and honest emotion.

Rating4

nvp055-coverTheir name comes from one of my favorite books of all time, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, inspired by the great falls of River Anduin beneath Nen Hithoel, where the river fell from Emyn Muil to the wetland of Nindalf. Their music, a fusion of Black and Folk Metal with several other elements from distinct genres of music, ranges from a multilayered bout of aggression to beautiful moments of music that twist with a powerful and honest emotion. I’m talking about Falls of Rauros, an extremely talented quartet hailing from the city of Portland, Maine, in the United States, who are releasing their fourth full-length album titled Vigilance Perennial, for the delight of fans of complex and atmospheric music.

Since their inception in 2005 the band has been in a constant state of evolution in their career, with their music flowing organically and increasing in intensity with each of their releases. Featuring an impactful artwork by Sólfjall Design, Vigilance Perennial offers the listener five unique compositions that not only represent the core essence of Falls of Rauros, but that will also take you on a journey of creativity and discovery together with the four members of this idiosyncratic band. If you truly open your mind to the music found in Vigilance Perennial, the entire album will probably become a constant part of your daily music playlist without a shadow of a doubt.

Smooth guitar lines by Jordan and Aaron kick off the opening track, White Granite, being gradually accompanied by Evan on bass and Ray on drums, before Jordan begins firing some hellish gnarls completing the band’s aforementioned fusion of Folk and Black Metal, in this case nicely complemented by subtle hints of Doom Metal. You’ll be travelling through serene fields and harsher landscapes with the band in this full-bodied composition, elevating your emotions and senses before the second aria of the album, Labyrinth Unfolding Echoes, continues to guide you through Falls of Rauros’ whimsical journey. Slow beats and soulful guitars dictate the rhythm in the song’s gentle beginning, but it’s after around three minutes that things get more flammable with their dark and melodic Folk Metal exploding once again, with Jordan growling in a very somber way while Evan and Ray add a lot of progressiveness and epicness to the sonority.

The instrumental piece Warm Quiet Centuries of Rains showcases two minutes of tranquil guitar lines and a pleasant atmosphere, preparing our ears and souls for the dense and multilayered composition that will certainly blast the minds of fans of the genre entitled Arrow & Kiln, where the band fires heavy and aggressive sounds from the very beginning, with Jordan sounding more menacing and demonic than before. Moreover, Ray has an amazing performance on drums with both his Black Metal blast beats and his more rhythmic and progressive beats, helping the other members to constantly alternate between calm instrumental passages and piercing folk sounds powerfully. And closing the album Falls of Rauros offer us all another extreme music extravaganza named Impermanence Streakt Through Marble, a very harmonious and exciting tune where all band members deliver top-notch Folk and Black Metal through their sharp instruments. The song gets remarkably heavy at times, especially halfway through it, with the riffs by Jordan and Aaron and the precise drumming by Ray creating a darkened ambience perfect for the harsh growls by Jordan to sound even stronger.

If you’re ready to tame the unrestrained waters of Falls of Rauros, simply go check their Facebook page for more details on their career, tour dates and future plans. And there are so many different places where you can grab your copy of Vigilance Perennial I might have missed one or two from my list, as you can buy the album at the Falls of Rauros’ BandCamp page, at the Nordvis Produktion’s BandCamp page or webstore (in CD or LP format), at the Bindrune Recordings’ webstore also in CD or LP format, as well as on iTunes or Amazon. Feel embraced by the beautiful extreme music crafted by Falls of Rauros, and let your emotions flow to the sound of their distinguished creations.

Best moments of the album: Labyrinth Unfolding Echoes and Arrow & Kiln.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Bindrune Recordings/Nordvis Produktion

Track listing
1. White Granite 10:11
2. Labyrinth Unfolding Echoes 9:30
3. Warm Quiet Centuries of Rains 2:17
4. Arrow & Kiln 12:02
5. Impermanence Streakt Through Marble 10:17

Band members
Jordan – vocals, guitar
Aaron – guitar, vocals
Evan – bass
Ray – drums