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