October 23, 2021 — Making up for last week’s relatively sparse roundup, this one is brimming with thunderous vocals, rhythmic melodies, and the folksy sounds of Norse culture. A septet of artists unknowingly pooled together to deliver on a stellar playlist fit for the Kurgan Compass audience.
From a relatively new Swedish artist drawing inspiration from the same ancient herding-calls Jonna Jinton is known for, to a holiday-themed track that captures the spirit of the season, this week offers an eclectic blend of sounds and auditory experiences that will rub your speakers the right way.
As per usual — listen to the Kurgan Compass™ playlists on Spotify for the best of the below.
FAUN “Overhauls” Samhain For All Hallows’ Eve
Blending sounds of the old Celtic world with more current resonances, long-running Germano-folksters FAUN brings life to the ancestor-veneration tradition of ancient Europe with their new song ‘Halloween’ which is a surprisingly upbeat composition backed by the stunning, almost orchestral vocals that FAUN is known for.
FAUN frontrunners Laura Fella, Adaya de Bairacli Levy, and Stephan Groth spoke about the new track, attributing its essence to the ancient Irish festival of Samhain which is a Gaelic (“Celtic”) word pronounced “SAH-win” — a forerunner to Halloween. Adaya also dug into the Medieval Age in an effort to bring back the banjola for the band’s new release, a string instrument from the 1700s. Tucked beneath the assortment of excellently played string and percussion instruments, it is a notable addition.
‘Halloween’ may start on a high-tempo note, but things get more ritualistic with a haunting chant that completely alters the mood after some time. FAUN’s take on the celebration is unique and stands apart from the songs we traditionally listen to every Halloween and is a good fit for anyone’s seasonal playlist.
HULKOFF Releases New Metal Album ‘Ragnarök’
The wait for HULKOFF’s anticipated third solo album, Ragnarök, is finally over — fans and folk metal enthusiasts around the world can listen to it on all major music services now.
Album songs inspired by historical events include the life story of (Harald) ‘Hardrada’, the runaway boy who returned home a man and became King of Norway at the height of the Viking Age, following a 10-year stint with the Varangian Guard in Byzantine Rome where he ended up Captain, whereas other tracks like ‘Jormungandr’ and ‘Holmgang’ deliver pleasantly primal metal loaded with candor, sincerity, and a few drops from Mimir’s well (a figure in Norse myth famous for his wisdom.)
As with HULKOFF’s previous album Pansarfolk, Ragnarök is a double language release that includes each track in both Swedish and English; with Ragnarök: Vinland Edition sang in English, and Ragnarök: Svitjod Edition delivered in Swedish. HULKOFF’s high-spirited compositions permeate the entire album in a deep, moving way, bringing listeners on a journey into the deepest depth of Norse mythology — possibly all the way to the prophetized Ragnarök itself.
SKÁLD Brings Holiday Delights with ‘Jólanótt’
In some parts of the world, pumpkins and Halloween decor is already being replaced by Christmas trees and holly, a sure sign the holiday season is coming. But if you have missed the subtle switch from spooky to festive, the Norse-inspired French duo SKÁLD (one of the most commercial acts in the neofolk scene with significant backing from Universal Music Group’s Decca Records — established in 1929 in Britain and mostly known for rejecting The Beatles) released the joyous sounds of ‘Jólanótt’ ahead of their Winter Songs EP due out next week.
The soft melody of this wintry track isn’t your traditional Christmas classic, however, and instead sticks to its cultural roots. ‘Jólanótt’ is a call back to the celebration of Jul, or Yule, which is a midwinter feast that celebrates the Yule father, Odin (or Jólfaðr, in Old Norse). ‘Jólanótt’ embodies the celebration with a lovely sound crafted by singer Justine Galmiche and instrumentalist Pierrick Valence. True to SKÁLD’s form, the holiday track pulls from an age of wonder and folklore and embraces the traditions of their ancestors.
Bobby Sant & Rúnahild Releases ‘Mörkriden’
It is not every day a song captivates from its very first notes, but the collaboration between Swedish artist Bobby Sant and Norway’s Rúnahild is a beautifully composed track from the very start. Sant’s vocal depth helps carry the spartanly arranged track, while Rúnahild adds a contrasting singing range to make ‘Mörkriden’ a multi-dimensional auditory experience. A YouTube teaser is available despite the full track being out on all music services.
According to Rúnahild, it was Sant’s recent release ‘Katten’ (with Kati Rán and Sun and Moon Dance) that inspired her to join the artist for ‘Mörkriden’, a decision that ultimately benefits the listener most. Rúnahild’s strumming soothes the listener while Sant’s intoxicating vocals, sung in the Swedish artist’s native tongue. Sant confirmed he has no plans of translating the track to English, stating that the poetry and emotion would be lost.
‘Mörkriden’ is available on Spotify and is a must-listen, even if those who are not natively Scandinavians can quite translate its meaning. At the end of the day, it is about the musical journey on offer here, and what Bobby Sant and Rúnahild deliver which will leave exactly no one disappointed.
Myrkur’s ‘Rivers Blessed’ Flips Black Metal 180°
Danish metal band Myrkur has released a track sampler that is the complete opposite of black metal yet remains an auditory wonder that tells a story that many women can connect with. As always, the beautiful vocals of Amalie Bruun lead ‘Rivers Blessed (Demo)’ whilst guiding listeners on the journey into motherhood. Myrkur’s newest song borrows from the antiquity of Danish culture, from a poem titled ‘There is Nothing in the World as Silent as Snow’, and the gentle plucking of strings captures the wintry setting of the poem.
Though snow gently falls to the ground, the winter weather brings many perils and hazards that Bruun navigates to keep her newborn safe. The melodic sound is comforting, like a lullaby intended to soothe a baby to sleep.
The demo release of ‘Rivers Blessed’ is merely a sampling of what Myrkur has in store, as the band’s lead singer let us know a new album is also on the way.
Vildemo’s ‘Song of Ice’ Encapsulates Cool
Vildemo may be a neofolk artist most are not entirely familiar with, but if the unique and unexpected sounds of her latest track, ‘Song of Ice’ are any indication, we can be sure to hear plenty more from her. The Swedish artist pulled inspiration from an unusual place for this release, which is ultimately a mix of her haunting vocals and, as she describes it on her Facebook page, the sound of a frozen lake and the echo of cracking ice along the smooth surface.
The abstract concept results in a stand-out performance from Vildemo, who shows signs of Jonna Jinton-level kulning herder-calls. As Vildemo builds her presence in the emerging neofolk scene, she spreads her talents across multiple mediums like a genuine Renaissance woman. Along with her musical career, the vocalist also paints and is currently in the process of writing a full-length novel. Artist all the way, as they say.
To listen to this up-and-coming starlet before she really blows up, ‘Song of Ice’ is available on Spotify.
Pororoka Sets Dark, Gloomy Mood with ‘ДПМ’
There is something truly dark and ominous about Pororoka’s latest track, ‘ДПМ’, as the Ukrainian dark-folksters pulls from the gloomy past of local, Slavic culture to craft this new release of hums, chants, and string instruments. It is a wonderful mix that backs the intense vocals of lead singer Svitlanka Sugak (who also happens to be a skilled 3D artist.)
There is little information about ‘ДПМ’ except that the title might translate to ‘DPM’. Beyond that, the message and vocals are a mystery. To a degree, the sound of the song has its own mysterious air to it, leaving one to wonder if the true meaning behind ‘ДПМ’ is meant only for those familiar with the Cyrillic world of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and a few more.
The band name Pororoca appears to refer to a tidal bore with waves up to four meters (13 ft.) high that travel as much as 800 km inland upstream on the Amazon River and adjacent rivers. Its name might hail from the indigenous Tupi language, in which it could mean “great roar”.