November 6, 2021 — This week’s roundup features a number of songs that each takes inspiration from past events or music. Whether it be a region of Norway, an old folk ballad, or one of the most famous events of World War I, these artists have brought the past to the present.
Featuring enthralling performances, each track on this list is more than worth your time. From the new duet of ‘Valhalla Calling’ to SABATON’s ‘Christmas Truce’, the Kurgan Compass™ audience has been blessed with a veritable feast for the ears. For immediate listening, head over to our Spotify playlists.
Bjorth has a Tale to Tell in ‘Herr Mannelig’
Some songs serve as a direct link to the past, and Bjorth’s ‘Herr Mannelig” is a prime example. The haunting track sings of a female mountain troll trying to win the hand of a handsome young man. Though she bestows upon him impossible gifts, he continues to rebuke her advances. As you can guess, things don’t go too well for the troll.
Bjorth’s iteration of ‘Herr Mannelig’ may be new, but the song is actually an old Swedish ballad from 1877. The dark folk spin on the classic single breathes new life into it, giving it a unique sound altogether. Other versions have been covered by Garmama, Haggard, and Midnattsol, but Bjorth’s take is fresh, catchy, and true to form.
New Studio Release by Sowulo ‘Brego in Breoste’
It’s not every day that an artist takes us into the studio to hear a relatively raw track. Sowulo showed no shame in opening up the live studio recording of ‘Brego in Breoste’, and the result is a well-composed moment in neofolk history as spot-on vocals and a beautiful arrangement came together to tell of a king without a throne.
Roughly translated to Ruler in Thy Chest, ‘Brego in Breoste’ is an epic track that embodies the musical project’s staple cynicism. The finished track came to life thanks to a team of artists, including vocalists Faber Horback and Micky Huijsmans. Chloe Bakker added a touch of fantasy with a Celtic harp, while Tim Elfring, Roel Steijvers, Rikke Linssen, Maria Angeles Chaparro Fuentes, Heleen de Jonge, and Sascha Hilgen provided the single’s percussion and string sounds.
Forfedre Launches New EP, Runar
There seems to be a common theme between the songs of Forfedre, and they all link back to the meaning of the project’s name. Translate into English, Forfedre means ‘ancestors’, and each of the six tracks on the new Runar EP (released October 22) fall in line with this idea of the people of our past. Whether it’s the poignant sounds of ‘For the Fallen’ or the tribal drums of ‘Northern Pagans’, the album calls upon memories of civilizations long since past.
Fans of neofolk might find it interesting that the Forfedre folk project is a spin-off endeavor by cinematic production music outfit Celestial Aeon Project, and appears to be a lot less authentic and grounded than real pagan bands like Wardruna, Draugablíkk, or Heilung. Perhaps Celestial Aeon saw an opportunity to cash in on the massive, worldwide resurgence of folk music?
From the somber tone of ‘For the Fallen’, the chillingly ethereal ‘Northern Spirits’, or the prominent percussion from ‘Northern Pagans’, there is something here for everyone. While these tracks are not flush with vocals or complex instrumentation they each carry a distinct sound. Some stick to a traditional notation with others taking a more exotic approach. Oddly, Forfedre is one of few heathen bands to not have a Bandcamp page.
As is expected with Forfedre, there are no vocals, but the stories are unmistakably tied into the strings and drums coursing through each track. All six songs of Runar are available on Spotify, and though they’re relatively short, they’re all worth listening to on repeat.
Sabaton Goes Seasonal With ‘Christmas Truce’
There is a thin line between a haunting gothic track and traditional instrumentalized Christmas music. SABATON near crosses that line entirely with its newest holiday track, ‘Christmas Truce’. Notes of Halloween seem tucked underneath the jingling of bells during the song’s strong opening but make no mistake. Even if the song title was not as telling, listeners would know the appropriate time to play SABATON’s new track.
The story of the Christmas Truce has become one of the most well-known events to transpire during World War I, regardless of how unbelievable it sounds. On the eve of Christmas 1914, British soldiers heard German troops in trenches opposite to themselves singing carols, hanging lanterns, and placing small fir trees along the edges of the trench. This resulted in messages being shouted between the trenches. The following day saw both parties meet in no man’s land to exchange gifts, take photos, and play games. They also helped each other bury casualties and repair the trenches.
It was this legendary event that inspired SABATON’s new single ‘Christmas Truce’ with the group claiming that this topic was of the “highest priority” when they decided to write songs about World War I. They consider it to be one of the most emotional moments from the war and wanted to do it justice, which is why they explain the song took years to create. The track shows that no matter who you are or where you come from, we can all take a moment to reflect on what gives us meaning in times of turmoil. Even outside the holidays, we can all be brothers, perhaps even friends.
As if the lyrics were not on point enough, SABATON created the above music video to further break listeners’ hearts this holiday season.
EINAR SELVIK & IVAR BJØRNSON DRAW INSPIRATION FROM HISTORY WITH ‘HARDANGER’
During the initial research and subsequent performances used to create their 2018 album Hugsjá, the duo of Einar Selvik & Ivar Bjørnson found inspiration from various sources. However, one locale left an impression so strong that they decided to base their newest EP around the location and its history. If the title was any clue, we are referring to the region of Hardanger in Norway (located a few hours away from the duo’s at-the-time operations in Bergen). This area is assumed to be the place where the Germanic tribe known as the Heruli settled in ancient times, becoming the first Western Norwegians.
The titular track aims to celebrate the history of the Heruli as well as those that came after them, as this migration and melding have resulted in what we know as Norway today. The song is ripe with percussive elements, opening with a rhythm reminiscent of a heartbeat, but is balanced out by the inclusion of both traditional and exotic melodies. As the song progresses the listener will gradually notice the inclusion of more voices to the mix, a nod to the history of the region and how groups of various people came to call the land home. Those who want to support the neofolk duo directly should purchase a digital copy on Bandcamp.
Additionally, the song features guest vocals by Lindy-Fay Hella, Grutle Kjellson, and Iver Sandøy. If those latter two sound familiar it is because they come from the group ENSLAVED. Coincidentally enough the second song on the EP, ‘Heim til Yggdrasil’ is a re-imagining of ENSLAVED’s much-liked song ‘Return to Yggdrasil’ and features guest performances by a number of the band’s members. The ‘cover’ does not do it justice — it needs to be experienced on its own.
Miracle of Sounds Brings Metal, Duet
A name like Miracle of Sounds should be reserved for a musical project that embodies the power that music can have over its listeners. Gavin Dunne, the creative mind behind the Irish indie project, more than proved his ability to draw in his audience, and a recent collaboration with Peyton Parrish further strengthens that hold. ‘Valhalla Calling’ combines the sounds of two very talented artists to create a track that embodies the strength and vigor of the Viking warriors of traditional lore.
‘Valhalla Calling’ may sound familiar to gamers as part of the Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla official soundtrack, but this new version with Peyton Parrish amplifies the already fantastic track with a few subtle changes. Peyton Parrish brings to the single a metal sound that pumps up the energy as the track plays. It’s an unexpected surprise about halfway through as the entire tone of the track changes. While some songs don’t benefit from a change in style, the Duet Version of ‘Valhalla Calling’ improves upon the original without replacing it entirely.
From new albums to memorable singles, the week delivered on enjoyable sounds that bring out the awe and wonder of the holiday season and send us to the gates of Valhalla. As per usual, we have added the best of the above to the Kurgan Compass™ Spotify playlists so make sure to listen here.