posted on 9/2008 By:
Folk metal is a genre often met with some skepticism by portions of the metal community, generally citing problems with the overabundance of keyboards and overly “happy” atmosphere associated with bands like Ensiferum and Equilibrium. While I personally love the genre, I can see why some may not be able to get into the cheesiness and upbeat feel of many folk metal bands. I would also like to force said people to listen to Fimbultyr’s debut album, Gryende Tidevarv.
To get right to the point, this thing rips. Fimbultyr exhibit the chops and focus of bands twice their age, and their extreme, face-melting take on speedy folk metal is one that could earn this young band a serious place of worth in the European metal scene. Fimbultyr take all that is great about bands like those mentioned in the first paragraph and infuse it all with a raging, blackened intensity that is invigorating and incredibly fun to listen to. Of particular note, especially to those weary of keyboards; the keys, while detectable, play a very small role in this album overall, with the crazy catchy folk melodies expertly handled by the guitar and bass. And good lord, does the guitar playing on this album shred. The emotional opening riff and subsequent hammer-on abuse of “Andlosa Fragor,” or the blazing leads in “Narstrand” showcase the high level of songwriting ability and musicianship possessed by this Swedish unit without sounding showboat-y, and the bass actively contributes to the riffs instead of merely following them. When the keyboards do surface with more prominence, such as in “Nidstang”, Fimbultyr pull it off without sounding corny, as it's only a matter of time before the harsh guitars and drums come bursting back to the forefront. The precise and energetic playing of skinsman Jonas Arnberg adds even more intensity to a sound that can best be described as “vicious.” The slightly raw production only adds to this appeal.
Perhaps most pleasing about this album is how dark and menacing it sounds despite the abundance of highly catchy melodies. While generally keeping the pace at a gallop, Fimbultyr occasionally slow things to a more black metal-influenced midpace to great effect, particularly on sorrowful closer “Hel.” And even when things are going full blast, the band manages to achieve an impressive sort of epic, tragic atmosphere comparable to Amon Amarth at their more heroic moments. Vocalist Christofer Bergqvist turns in a high-calibur performance, maintaining an aggressive and well-enunciated scream/growl occasionally punctuated by moments of Moonsorrow-esque clean singing—nothing revolutionary, but damn-well executed. With such an impressive collection of songs and such well-executed technical decisions, its hard to come up with much criticism for Gryende Tidevarv at all.
2008 has been a strong year for folk metal, particularly the amazing work produced by Moonsorrow and Equilibrium in the past months. While not as grand in scope as this year’s works by those bands (this album clocks in at a rather brief thirty-seven minutes), Gryende Tidevarv deserves just as much attention from fans of this genre. I’ve enjoyed headbanging to this album about as much as any record released this year, and with such obvious talent and flair at such an early stage in their career, don’t be surprised if you begin hearing the name Fimbultyr mentioned with increasing frequency in the near future. Highly recommended.
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