October 10, 2021 — Fans will agree there is often something ritualistic about the pounding rhythms and haunting vocals of neofolk as if each track is calling upon some greater being. It is the magical blend of antiquated sounds of generations gone and modern musical concepts that keep listeners engrossed in various folk compositions.
This week’s music roundup pulls together three neofolk tracks that, while different in nature, all capture the essence of the genre. Turn up the volume and get lost in this week’s meditative, Nordic, and folksy releases.
Hrafngrímr Sings of “Army of One”
There is a story to be told through French folk artist Hrafngrímr’s latest track, ‘Einherjar’, though it is worth noting that it is far from an untold tale. Before we get to the name of the song, let us discuss the track itself, which is a wonderful mix of strumming, pounding, and vocals.
The melody of ‘Einherjar’ is catchy, enhanced by a few modern touches that shine all the way through. Hrafngrímr stays true to the signature sound that fills a library of Norse-inspired neofolk tracks the Paris-based artist collective is best known for. ‘Einherjar’ is available on Hrafngrímr’s Bandcamp page.
When we look beyond the song itself, we are left with a legend we have heard told time and time again. The track is named after the super warriors of Norse mythology who fought valiantly enough to die in battle to be ushered into Valhalla by the Valkyries, where they would enjoy battling each other every day until the arrival of Ragnarök. It is a fascinating mythos, but there is one problem with making a song about the warriors — it has been done time and time again.
Hrafngrímr’s ‘Einherjar’ is just one of many different neofolk tracks that sing of the myth and share the same song title. There will come a time when even a well-composed audio track won’t be enough to balance the unoriginality of yet another song about Valhalla’s Einherjar.
Skugga Perform a Sun and Moon Dance
Skugga is the creation of Mörkriden Productions, a newcomer to the neofolk scene. Their debut track ‘Katten’ starts with the gentle strumming of piano keys, and a beautiful melody whisks the senses off to some distant, legendary land. Then the vocals kick in, their beautiful gentleness matching the energy and tempo of the piano for a musical blend that’s nothing short of alluring.
Vocalist, lyricist, and frontman Bobby Sant lead ‘Katten’, featuring neofolk long-runners Kati Rán (vocalist with millions of streams on Spotify and YouTube) and Chris Welsh of Sound and Moon Dance.
The release came with one warning — according to the Mörkriden Facebook page, translating the lyrics away from Swedish would cause the ‘poetry’ to get lost in translation. But even if you don’t understand what is being sung, it is a message that can be felt through every note played. It is deep and emotional while the English translation is a bit of a mess and doesn’t quite match the beauty and grace.
For being new to the neofolk scene, Skugga is absolutely making waves early on and shows great promise of delivering even more wonderment.
Fabrizio Brugnera Gets Ritualistic
Having moved to Scotland to get closer to nature, Italian guitarist and composer Fabrizio Brugnera has dug deep into his ambient proficiency to develop ‘Blót’, a new track he hopes will help “raise awareness of the environment’. On Brugnera’s official Facebook page, he discusses the purpose and message behind ‘Blót’, calling it a metaphor for how we are sacrificing the planet. When translated, blót means ‘sacrifice’, and it is clear that the themes are intentionally heavy-handed throughout this ritualistic track.
There are two versions of the song, but it’s the ‘Ritual Version’ available on Bandcamp that draws in the neofolk crowd. The original is a largely instrumental iteration, as depicted in the below music video. Some may argue that the ‘Ritual Version’ is more connected to nature, its sounds alluding to the planet’s impending threat — humanity.
The ‘Ritual Version’ is available on Brugnera’s Bandcamp and is joined by another newer release, ‘Miasma Theory’. While the new track does not quite match our preferred style, it is inspired by the Middle Ages and suggests that diseases were caused by poisonous mists of decomposed matter.
Urferd Teases New Album, Resan
Daniel Beckman may be best known for his work on Twilight Force and Ages, but a recent signing with Sweden-based Black Lodge Records will put his new project, Urferd, in the spotlight. Beckman recently teased the release of Urferd’s upcoming album, Resan, which is scheduled to release sometime in 2022.
The eight-track “musical odyssey” will blend Nordic folk music with ambient sounds, taking ‘the listener on a journey through a dark and olden Nordic forests’. According to the Resan announcement, Beckman is working on the album alone, hoping to bring “…a refreshing new perspective to the genre, challenging the boundaries of dark atmospheric folk music”.
Resan is currently available for pre-order on Urferd’s Bandcamp.