Release DetailsLABEL Candlelight
RELEASED ON 9/25/2007
posted on 10/2007 By:
Don't approach this album like I did, noting the presence of both Ihsahn and his wife (Star of Ash) and expecting either a continuation of the now retired Peccatum project with a Norwegian folk flair or black metal à la Ihsahn with folk underpinnings. Hardingrock isn't anything like any of Ihsahn's or his wife's projects. Knut Buen is actually the focus of this album; he composes traditional Norwegian folk songs (as well as some spoken word passages), and Mr. and Mrs. Tveitan do little to change the structure of his melodies. Grimen isn' so much an Ihsahn-Ihriel collaboration with Knut Buen as it is Knut Buen collaborating with Ihsahn and Ihriel.
The premise of this work is to express traditional Norwegian folk melodies through the modern means of metal and electronic music. Sometimes the traditional folk seems to be entirely supplanted by newer metal as on the second track, "Fanitullen", one of only three guitar-led pieces that sees Knut playing second fiddle behind Ihsahn's black-ish riffs and clean singing. But even this song is very folk in structure, despite its modern equipment. "Faens marsj" follows it with Ihsahn's black metal rasp, and underneath it aren't blastbeats or ice-cold riffs but a lively fiddle melody soon borrowed by the guitar and accompanied by some keys. As the song continues it begins to fly more and more of Ihsahn's colors, sounding almost like something off of The Adversary, but it never strays far from that Knut Buen melody, and sure enough, the Harding fiddle is there in the end to tie all the pieces together.
"Daudingen", "Margit Hjukse", "Grimen", and "Huldreslåtten (Bygdatråen)" are comprised mostly of Knut's spoken word passages, layered atop natural ambiance and electronic wizardry grâce à Star of Ash, and usually transitioning mid-song into beautiful fiddle pieces that serve as short interludes that set up the full-length songs that follow. (I can't comment on these tracks, except to say that they're very pretty, because I don't speak nynorsk).
Some of the songs do (nearly) abandon the fiddle, "Nykken" being my favorite of these, because it truly seems to preserve that mythical traditional Norwegian folk ethos without losing anything on the voyage to the modern world as envisioned by Star of Ash's electronic beats, keys, and ethereal choirs. And therein lies the only fault I find with this release: In the more aggressive songs, the fiddle-guitar combination sometimes feels inauthentic, the emotion forced. That is, the past and the future don't mix like they ought to. I'm not against folk metal in principle; in fact I love it. But on Grimen, the guitar-driven songs like "Fanitullen", "Faens marsj" and "Fossegrimen" just don't strike a chord with me at all. Part of the blame goes to often bland riffs; how can a guitar-centered song be any good if the guitar isn't interesting? But the riffs have to work within a certain context on this project, so my bet is that re-interpreting Harding fiddle melodies with an electric guitar sounds better on paper than it does through speakers. And even when the riffs are great ("Fanitullen") the songs suffer due to sounding out of place, jarring with the rest of the album, as if they were trying too hard to conjure up a feeling that just isn't there. There's nothing wrong with any of these three songs when judged individually, but in relation to the album as a whole, they just don't fit.
Because the fiddle-dominated tracks like "Den bergtekne" and especially "Faen på bordstabelen" fare extremely well, and Star of Ash's contributions meld seamlessly with the traditional music (see "Nykken," "Daudingen" and "Den bergtekne") an album full of these would score extremely high marks and please me endlessly. As it stands, Grimen is an interesting and engaging project, with many moments of beauty and successful experimentation, and while not all of the experiments work all of the time, it's still a worthwhile listen.
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