November 28, 2021 — Kurgan Compass™ listeners can rejoice for this week’s roundup as we have been blessed with a wide range of music from a variety of folk artists. From the traditional elements of Danheim’s new single ‘Tivar’ (“Gods” in Old Norse) to more experimental tracks like Errrilaz ‘Valhalla’, this roundup is a smorgasbord of hypnotic songs inspired by ages past.
Whether you are someone who prefers classic folk music or experimental neofolk, or just an adventurous soul looking for something new, the best new tracks from the roundup below have been dutifully added to the Kurgan Compass™ Spotify playlist.
Einar Selvik Returns To ‘AC: Valhalla’ Once More With Surprise Release Of ‘Weft of Spears’
Chances are you’ve heard of either Einar Selvik or his work. The Wardruna lead-singer and Norwegian musician has worked on projects such as the History Channel show Vikings, as well as video games like League of Legends and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla (like Wrath of the Druids which we reviewed here.)
Most recently, Selvik has released a new six-track album comprised of songs from the game’s soundtrack. Strangely, neither UbiSoft nor ByNorse (the label Selvik is associated with) has issued a formal press release for the November 26 release. That aside, while listening, one will understand Ubisoft could not have picked a better fit for the game.
Each song on the album is great at setting an atmosphere and mood. This is integral when it comes to the soundtrack for a game. The music is strong enough to stand on its own, even when listened to standalone. There is a wonderful variety to the instruments utilized, with some songs having powerful percussion and others resonant strings.
The main vocal performer is able to adapt his performance based upon the tone each track is going for. Some songs with more than one vocal performance help to elevate the scale of the track as a whole. This, along with other aspects, allows each song to feel distinct and memorable.
Errrilaz Tries To Evolve Neofolk With ‘Valhalla’
While Errilaz may not be as well known as some of their contemporaries, the act has made a name for itself with how it utilizes folk aspects in its songs. The artist is relatively new to music production (having put out their first song only 8 months ago). However, they have a solid grasp on how to mix two genres that many would not think to combine. Despite to over-used title ‘Valhalla’, the song is unique as it mixes folk with contemporary electronica — without going overboard.
The song possesses a head-bobbing beat complemented with vocals that help enhance the neofolk traits the song possesses. The track tends to steer away from the qualities of dubstep, instead focusing on the driving beat throughout the song.
Additionally, the audio balance and mixing prevent the main beat from overshadowing the vocal aspects and vice-versa. To sum up; if Cyberpunk 2077 met Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, it might have resulted in how Errilaz’ ‘Valhalla’ sounds.
Fornsken Is Dead, Long Live Nattramn!
As with all things Norse mythology; death and rebirth are closely intertwined — and sometimes the former is necessary for the latter to fully bloom and prosper. Hence, walking in the footsteps of his ancestors, Swedish artist Andreaz Axelsson’s seminal neofolk project Fornsken has been reborn as Nattramn in an effort to refocus and further explore his musical style
Kurgan Compass reached out to Andreaz Axelsson who is the core talent of Nattramn for a comment on the recent name change, and he had this to offer:
“I feel a much deeper connection to Nattramn than Fornsken,” Andreas began, “Actually, Fornsken was a name I disliked for a long while before the change. It was something I came up with to kickstart my inner drive to create folk music. Your readers might also find it interesting that a Nattramn is a relatively unknown undead creature of Swedish folklore.”
Andreas then continued,“A Nattramn is the spirit of someone buried in unholy ground or a person that committed suicide,” Andreas began, “The word Nattramn consists of two words, Natt meaning night while ramn is an old Swedish word for raven (that can be recognized in the Old Norse word for raven which, “hrafn”. Basically, nattramn translates to night raven.” — Andreaz Axelsson
Fornsken’s past releases have been nothing short amazing as we found out when reviewing the former Fornsken project’s Galder jag kväda kan back in May, an album that lay the seeds for sonic motifs and elements which the Kurgan’s very own Rich Hobson said “…could be greater developed in future releases…” a statement we can likely expect to be true whilst we eagerly await new material to be released by Nattramn. You can find the project’s new Bandcamp page here.
Editor’s note: In Norse mythology, the nattramn there are also descriptions of the creature as a giant, nocturnal raven-like bird. The undead entity is believed to have no eyes which if looked into will cause immediate death. The nattramn is also depicted with holes in its wings which cause illness and disease if looked at. Another common undead creature of Norse myth is the zombie-like Draugr (which incidentally gave name to Russo-Nordic dark folk specialists Draugablíkk.)
Lindy-Fay Hella & Dei Farne Debuts ‘Hildring’
Lindy-Fay Hella & Dei Farne’s have graced us with their imaginative new album Hildring. This record is three years in the making and is Lindy-Fay’s second full album since Seafarer in 2019. Perhaps most famous for being a member of the neofolk genre’s flagship band Wardruna, Lindy-Fay Hella is joined on Hildring by hitherto unknown folk act duo Dei Farne, a pair of Norwegian musicians by the names of Roy Ole Førland and Ingolf Hella Torgersen. Hildring is meant to encourage listeners to awaken their curiosity and sense of wonder and to find magic in their everyday lives.
To start, the album as a whole possesses an amazing combination of traditional and modern sounds. Personally, I found the inclusion of bass guitar a nice touch that makes the album stand out. Furthermore, to say the vocals bring the songs together is an understatement. They possess an ethereal yet beautiful quality, whilst the occasional layer of male vocals provides a pleasant tonal change.
Some of the songs on Hildring are a departure from what folk music listeners may be accustomed to. However, the sonic landscape retains the genre’s roots while the artists explore a newfangled folk sound for better or worse. The album contains nine full tracks, and fans are sure to find more than a few favorites. As always, Kurgan Compass™ recommends fans to support artists directly by purchasing digital copies of their music on Bandcamp — where Hildring is streaming now.
Heldom’s ‘Refsingardómr’ Inspire Reflection
Danish folk phenomenon Heldom has released a new single ‘Refsingardómr’. This dark folk song possesses a great sense of atmosphere, from the rattling of bones to the vocal accompaniment; it is unique and moody enough for us to recommend an insta-buy from Heldom’s Bandcamp. There is a subtle sense of dread present throughout the composition, which makes sense for a song whose title roughly translates to “penalty; punishment; verdict” in Old Norse.
While the track does not contain a large variety of instrumentation it uses what it has to great effect. Heldom has produced a fitting video for the song that cleverly uses clips from History Channel’s Vikings series that have been dark-graded to further align with the dark ambiance of the song.
‘Refsingardómr’ has a subtle yet gradual buildup, and although it never reaches any sort of grand climax it does give the track a sense of drive and progression. This aspect lends itself well to the idea of a criminal sentence such as punishment by death. This might express the feeling captured or severely injured warriors of the Viking Age felt as they awaited whatever grim fate the Norns had spun for them.
Listeners should note the song uses some rather creative audio mixing, with parts of the track playing only on a single (mono) channel. Thus, the Kurgan also recommends listening to Heldom’s new single ‘Refsingardómr’ with high-quality, over-ear stereo headphones so they can go deep into the experience.
A Tergio Lupi Releases New Single ‘Fade Under’
The folk scene certainly knows we are in the darker half of the year as there seems to be no ending to new, dark folk tracks being released. The band A Tergio Lupi first started making music in 2018, combining the dark atmosphere of neofolk with industrial influences. Their new single ‘Fade Under’ shows just how much they have improved in the three years since they started. The song contains a solid percussive foundation courtesy of war drums which is built upon traditional Nordic instrumentation like the talharpa. The vocals help enhance the track and feature both male and female performances.
The track ramps up as it progresses and feels almost like a theatrical performance in structure. An opening act, followed by a brief intermission, continued with a re-introduction of elements from the first act before building the climax. While the song is not high-tempo it does have a sense of energy that keeps listeners attentive and likely also awestruck. Considering the quality of the song, fans should be excited to see what A Tergio Lupi has in store for the future; their Bandcamp page is probably the best way to find out about new releases.
Danheim Delights with ‘Tivar’
Danheim’s new single ‘Tivar’ (“Gods” in Old Norse) is a fantastic piece of music from one of the largest, most famous artists in the neofolk scene. A strong start segues into the kind of sound Danheim is known for. Keen-eared listeners will be able to pick up on the talharpa and bowed bass lyre (similar to talharpa) prominent in the artist’s sound repertoire. After a momentary interlude, the song provides some spoken-word vocals while the music picks up with distinct vigor. ‘Tivar’ has an enthralling melody accentuated by a strong beat that really drives the track.
The utilization of traditional instrumentation lends itself well to the neofolk sound present in the piece. For instance, instead of using a snare drum to complement the percussion, Danheim opts to implement a clapping rhythm that listeners might have a difficult time not following along with. Additionally, the vocal accompaniment present throughout the song grants listeners a brief respite before the track dives right back into its captivating rhythm.
With a song like ‘Tivar’, it should come as no surprise that Danheim remains one of the most prominent modern neofolk artists in terms of popularity. Listeners need only hope that they do not have to wait long for the Danish-born artist’s next release.
Follow the Kurgan Compass™ neofolk playlist on Spotify to listen to and enjoy the best of the above.