January 16, 2022 — The Kurgan is proud to premiere our first bi-weekly ‘Full Moon’ roundup series that replaces the weekly updates of 2021. The new year started off jam-packed with interesting releases in metal, hard rock, and neofolk. Leading up to the full moon, artists like Sun and Moon Dance, Sowulo, Sabaton, Heldom, and The Hellacopters, and more, ensured a steady stream of new releases.
As always our favorite picks have been added to the Kurgan Compass™ Spotify playlists here.
First, a quick run-down of the Full Moon metal-hard rock releases. Metal band Verikalpa has given us a taste of their new album Tunturihauta, while Swedish megaband SABATON honors soldiers who died on the “blood mountain” with a video for ‘Soldier of Heaven’, created to promote their upcoming album The War To End All Wars. The new year also saw the return of Swedish hard rock, as rock ’n roll punksters The Hellacopters released new single ‘Eyes of Oblivion’ — also to drive awareness for their upcoming record of the same name. But there is more, including a few eye-raising neofolk releases, so read on.
Sun and Moon Dance Drops ‘Joik of Mother Bear’
North Carolinian Sun and Moon Dance released ‘Joik of Mother Bear’, a new single derived from an earlier release with a similar name. The artist describes the track as a “spirit song”, which the band further elaborates on via their Bandcamp page;
“The language of the spirit is not of words. A lot of times words fail to express what the spirit wants to sing so we must close our eyes and let the voice be free.”
These words connotate a sense of soul and spirituality which is definitely delivered through the music.
A Joik is no joke, rather, it is a traditional form of Sámi music originating from the Sámi people of northern Europe (who originated in Siberia eons ago.) As an art form, each joik is meant to reflect or evoke a person, animal, or place. In the case of Sun and Moon Dance, this person is someone whom the artist refers to as “Mother Bear”. In 2020 Sun and Moon Dance released another single simply titled “Mother Bear” written for the mother of someone the artist loved, after an unfortunate loss of a child. The new joik single is likely referencing the same person, as Sun and Moon Dance mentions the track was a gift they received from “Mother Bear” a few years ago.
‘Joik of Mother Bear’ is a composition that shines in its simplicity. It uses the same low drone as the previously released “Mother Bear” throughout but contains nothing else besides the uniquely sounding joik vocals. While some may be confused by the spartan instrumentation, it makes sense knowing the song is a Joik, a chanting-singing style also known as joiking that can be compared to the humming of certain Native American cultures and also shares similarities with some shamanistic cultures of Siberia (a region in eastern Russia that is believed to be the Urheimat of the modern Sami people.) The rich background aspects of joik lend themselves well to the song and emphasize a sense that Sun and Moon Dance is exposing its inner spirit in the rawest possible manner. While the song is a simple arrangement, ‘Joik of Mother Bear’ is still a fantastic track from an equally amazing artist, showing once again that “less is more.”
Fans who wish to support Sun and Moon Dance can purchase their music on Bandcamp.
Sowulo releases Live Studio ‘Swīnhæleðas’
Norse-inspired neofolk band Sowulo has given us another single from their live studio sessions. Featuring their iconic sound, ‘Swīnhæleðas’ contains phenomenal music and powerful vocals. It also exemplifies the group’s approach to composition, containing a number of “cycles” throughout the song. For those unfamiliar with the group, the name Sowulo is derived from runes and means ‘Sun’ on a symbolic level. The group has taken the cyclical nature of the sun and incorporated it throughout every aspect of their music. According to Sowulo;
“They follow the movement of the Sun and tell the stories of our inner and outer cycles of day and night, the four seasons, life and death.”
The track features many traditional instruments, from the Celtic Harp to the Violin, Viola, and Cello. Along with a sturdy percussive foundation, these elements give the song a definitive Sowulo feel. As the song progresses, keen listeners will come to recognize the cycles mentioned earlier. From the lyrics to the melody, each component follows cyclical paths. While some may think this to sound repetitive, such a notion could not be farther from the truth. New elements are continually layered with each cycle, providing a sense of familiarity and discovery. ‘Swīnhæleðas’ is an enthralling track that will have you cycling back to it again and again.
The track is available on all major music services and Sowulo’s Bandcamp page.
Heldom Brings the Beauty of Winter
Danish folk artist Heldom released a new single titled ‘Hvitskogr’, which is an Old Norse word that translates to “White Forest”, meant to evoke images of snow-covered trees and an ice-encrusted landscape. Heldom explains that winter is a time of the year that can be both beautiful and brutal, a concept he has woven into the song.
‘Hvitskogr’ begins with a cold howling wind before introducing instruments and vocals, which lines up nicely with the atmospheric tone. As the music gradually builds and more instruments are added, the tone of the song shifts. When the winds blow stronger and thunder can be heard, it can be interpreted as winter having made a transition from something beautiful and serene to a natural enemy. This change helps breathe new life into the song and further deepens the atmosphere Heldom was aiming for. With the traditional instrumentation that the artist is known for, ‘Hvitskogr’ is an enchanting, Nordic song that will help you through the winter as we enter a new year.
Verikalpa releases ‘Rautanen Herra’ from Upcoming Album ‘Tunturihauta’
Finnish folk metal group Verikalpa is releasing a new album titled Tunturihauta next week and has graced us with a taste of their upcoming record with the single ‘Rautanen Herra’ (a December release) which translates to ‘Iron Lord’. Verikalpa has been performing since 2006 and started releasing full albums in 2018. With a band name that translates to something along the lines of “Bloodied Sword”, you know you are in for some serious metal.
‘Rautanen Herra’ wastes no time getting started. Powerful percussion and hard-hitting guitars form the backbone of the track, while brief interludes allow the folk sound to come to the forefront. The song has a bewitching rhythm and I found myself nodding along almost unconsciously. While the folk elements help lighten up the song, make no mistake, the metal remains throughout. From start to finish, ‘Rautanen Herra’ will keep your blood pumping and your head banging.
The single and upcoming album Tunturihauta are available on Verikalpa’s Bandcamp and Spotify.
SABATON tells the Story of Heroes Who Never Came Home in ‘Soldier of Heaven’ Video
Last week SABATON released a video to accompany their recent single ‘Soldier of Heaven’, itself a small sampling of what is to come from the group’s upcoming album The War to End All Wars. The song tells the story of the brave men who fought in harsh milieus to protect various border areas during WWI. High in the Alps, close to heaven, they fought in the most extreme circumstances to protect that which they held dear. Within those snow-covered peaks, many men froze to death, their bodies lying buried under the snow… until today.
The video gives us a glimpse into the chaos that unfolded during the war, with the imagery providing contrast to the lyrics. Speaking of the lyrics, it is apparent just how much this song (and to an extent the upcoming album) means to SABATON. The words chosen hold a genuine sense of reverence for the brave soldiers who lost their lives. This shows the Swedish group has taken their time to tell these stories and to do it right. This is further compounded by the video’s ending: A dedication to the unknown heroes who never returned home.
While the ending may be somber, ‘Soldier of Heaven’ has given us a glimpse of what we can expect when The War to End All Wars releases, and by the sounds of it, the new Sabaton LP is shaping up to become something truly spectacular.
Nanna Barslev releases ‘Skjoldmø’ from Upcoming Debut Album ‘Lysbærer’
Nanna Barslev recently signed to ByNorse Music and shows that she is a wonderful fit for the roster with her new single ‘Skjoldmø’. Barslev has been a part of the folk scene since the early ’90s and has performed as a frontwoman in a variety of acts including Huldre, Asynje, Gny, and Ættir.
She is a multitalented artist that has performed within the genres of Norse, dark, and Viking folk music. Additionally, Barslev is an instrumentalist of traditional Scandinavian instruments like the moraharpa, tagelharpa, the Icelandic “langspil”, bodhran drum, and flute.
The song itself is quite entrancing, with the video lending itself well to the story Barslev wanted to tell with ‘Skjoldmø’. Meaning ‘Shieldmaiden’, the song references Norse myths of women who battled with axes, swords, and shields (contrary to popular belief, women did not fight in formation with Vikings nor did they ever attack an enemy, although there might be a grain of truth to the myth in the sense that capable females were forced to defend their farms and homestead, and Norse myth has a long-forgotten connection to the Sarmatian Amazons; female warrior archers of antiquity who roamed the Ukrainian steppe lands.) The artist has commented on the piece, explaining that;
“My interpretation of the shield maiden theme touches the problem of fighting inner judgment, a battle between strength and weaknesses as well as a judgment from society.”
Her message with the song is one of finding the strength to stand together and support each other instead of fighting amongst ourselves. Keep an eye out for Nanna Barslev’s debut solo album Lysbærer releasing March 18, 2022.
The Hellacopters Return with New Single
Now for something a little different. Swedish rock band The Hellacopters released a new single for their upcoming album of the same name Eyes of Oblivion. While it may not sound like much on paper, this release has been a long time coming.
For those who have never heard of this group, here is some abridged context. The Hellacopters were formed in 1994 performing garage rock and released three albums before solidifying their lineup in 1999. After a number of years making music, they amicably disbanded in 2008 and reassembled in 2016 for a performance celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut album. The band is considered one of the most important Swedish bands in the garage rock revival and one of the most influential rock bands in Sweden.
However, their story was not over. Back in October of 2021, The Hellacopters signed with Nuclear Blast to release their new album Eyes of Oblivion in 2022. This marks the first time the band would release a full-length album of new material since 2008’s Head Off and the first full-length album with founding member Dregen since 1997’s Payin’ the Dues. The sound of the upcoming album has been described by the group as “The Beatles meets Judas Priest, but the best way to describe this album is that it sounds like The Hellacopters today.”
Keep your eyes peeled for Eyes of Oblivion, slated to release April 1st, 2022.