September 5, 2021 — For those in a dark and mysterious mood, perhaps longing for a little fantasy, this week’s roundup of neofolk releases delivers. It has not been a hefty week for Kurgan Compass’ roundup, but it does not have to be when the material released is the kind that latches on and stick.
Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik announced their new album while Syr, The Flight, and Sowulo delivered new tracks that folksters will surely want to check out on the Kurgan Compass™ neofolk playlist on Spotify.
Sowulo Drops Reworked ‘Wulfwiga’
Known for its focus on heathenry and atmospheric dark folk tracks, Dutch pagan band Sowulo has a distinct style that comes through in its newest release, ‘Wulfwiga’. Rhythmic chanting kicks off a haunting start to Sowulo’s auditory offering, and though it seems to be geared toward a darker and drearier sound, at about one minute in, ‘Wulfwiga’ picks up some energy with a blend of melodic strings and howls to the moon.
‘Wulfwiga’ was first released in August of 2019 as part of MANN, a 12-track album currently available on Sowulo’s Bandcamp. The entire record is brilliant, but there is one thing missing from ‘Wulfwiga’ that is present only in the folk act’s live studio session, and that is the stunning vocals of Micky Hujismans who adds an incredible layer of contrast to the finished recording that somehow manages to improve the tone of the song.
Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik Releases New EP
Norwegian duo Ivar Bjørnson and Einar Selvik are no newcomers to the Nordic folk scene, being part of a group of artists hailing from Norway’s black metal scene who can be viewed as progenitors of modern neofolk.
In preparation for the November 5 physical release of the pairs’ new EP Hardanger, its two songs have already been made available on Bandcamp (where it can also be pre-ordered) featuring the namesake track and a re-issue of ‘Heim til Yggdrasil’. Available as a digital EP or a vinyl release with an etched B-side, Hardanger’s pairing of tracks are deliberately selected to capture a personal memory for the titular artists and recapture the magic of the Norwegian extreme metal band Enslaved’s ‘Return to Yggdrasil’.
‘Hardanger’ refers to a place of natural beauty that is fabled to be where the Harudes Germanic tribe settled eons ago. It is an homage to the history of the lands and the beginning of Norway. ‘Heim til Yggdrasil’ has a much less dramatic backstory, its roots connecting to the Hugsja live-tour. Having been so well received, the track was recreated once again for Hardanger, this time with Enslaved bandmates Ice Dale and Gruttle Kjellson joining in on the recording.
Pre-orders are currently open for Hardanger’s digital and vinyl editions on ByNorse Music. A limited-edition white and green vinyl is available as an online exclusive.
Munknörr & Rúnahild Take Flight
As we reported on August 15, once again, two well-established neofolk artists from different continents have come together to produce a track that blends each unique style into a journey to the skies and beyond. ‘The Flight’ is the product of a collaboration between Munknörr (Uruguay-based Damien Schneider whom we interviewed back in April) and Norway’s seiðr-sorceress Rúnahild.
First released as Munknörr (ft. Rúnahild) on Bandcamp, the two do a wonderful job of transporting listeners to ancient times in a rather authentic-sounding manner. Rúnahild lends her affinity for nature and the beauty of the world around us and helps weave a tale with the help of Munknörr’s shamanistic, pre-Columbian take on Norse-rooted neofolk.
“The birds symbolize the connection with the divine in many cultures since ancient times, they are closer to the sky than we are. The birds tell us that we can let our intuition and spirits fly, and that’s what this song is about.”
Listeners may feel like they have taken flight like a pair of nature magicians, soaring in trance high over the well-manicured lands that inspire Rúnahild’s raw, natural sound (by way of her official website, Rúnahild offered the above comment.)
SYR Keeps Things Upbeat on Spotify
SYR (sire) is a Celtic folk-rock band from South Carolina. Sometimes it is nice to hear a track that is not entirely sullen, dark, and backed by deep chanting vocals. SYR steps in with the save this week with ‘Tir N’aill,’ an upbeat marriage of pop and Celtic folk-rock that wouldn’t feel entirely out of place blasting from the radio.
‘Tir N’aill’ is very in line with the band’s more optimistic sound, and the vocals, as always, are the star. Laurel MacCallum has no issue shining, despite guitarist Ben Campbells proficiency with the strings and the track’s catchy melody.
SYR is currently out on its Autumn tore, with stops in Estes Park, CO, Niagara, NY, and Dandridge, TN, this month. Future dates will land at Radford, VA, Clinton, SC, and Tucson, AZ.
Fenris YouTube-Debuts Viking-Like Track
Swedish cross-genre artist Fenris takes Viking music in a more “commercial” direction than what Kurgan Compass™ readers might be used to, fusing a “radio hit” vibe with steady drum pounding and melodic vocals. For some, it might be difficult not to get wrapped up in repeated listenings.
‘Drums n Blood’ is the third song off his Water Take Us Home EP (not a neofolk release per se) that was released in May and recently made available for physical purchase at Grimfrost.
‘Drums n Blood’ was uploaded to YouTube on August 27 and the mellow drumming of Fenris is decidedly catchy, so do not be surprised if your hand mimics this song’s rhythm.
A selection of the above-mentioned tracks has, as always, been added to the Kurgan Compass™ Spotify playlist which readers can find and follow here.