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Hardingrock - "Grimen" (CD)

Hardingrock - "Grimen" CD cover image

"Grimen" track listing:

1. Daudingen (3:53)
2. Fanitullen (4:37)
3. Faens Marsj (3:43)
4. Margit Hjukse (2:27)
5. Den Bergtekne (4:46)
6. Faen på Bordstabelen (4:14)
7. Grimen (2:51)
8. Fossegrimen (3:32)
9. Nykken (5:11)
10. Huldreslåtten Bygdatråen (4:52)

Reviewed by on May 4, 2008

"Arcane and cryptic keyboard pieces layer themselves atop the eerily haunting sound of the Harding fiddle which fuse with heavy, but never overly technical, guitar."

Stretching the boundaries between genres of music to their breaking points is nothing new for Norwegian performers Ihsahn, of Emperor fame, and his wife Ihriel, who has made her own mark in the music industry with the keyboard-driven act Star of Ash. Despite the presence of Ihsahn’s trademark harsh growling vocals and lyrics that are mired in the antics of the Devil and other supernatural beings with dubious intentions, "Grimen" is easily the most accessible album either of these two highly talented artists has even been involved with, and is as likely to be discovered among the collection of a connoisseur of classical or folk music as in the CD case of a head banging metal fan flashing everyone the devil’s horns. "Grimen" is the first release from Hardingrock, which is a collaboration between the aforementioned musicians and Knut Buen, who masterfully plays the strings of the Harding fiddle, Norway’s national instrument. While most in the U.S. will have never heard of Knut prior to discovering Grimen, he is a well respected fiddler in Norway with quite a large following there.

From open to finish, "Grimen" drizzles down an unceasing flow of aural experience at once refreshingly new and yet oddly familiar. Arcane and cryptic keyboard pieces layer themselves atop the eerily haunting sound of the Harding fiddle, which fuse with heavy, but never overly technical, guitar. Ihsahn keeps his standard growl when appropriate to the music, but he also moves into new vocal territory here, utilizing a strong and clear clean singing not ever heard in his solo album or from his experimental band Peccatum. Ihriel continues her trend of moving even further from the shrieks and screams of her past work into an exquisite singing which is the auditory equivalent of a gossamer spider web, both spectral and insubstantial but still beautiful and strong. When not working magic with his fiddle, Knut provides simple and unassuming spoken word parts which construct a counterbalance to the more extreme sounds and keep the album grounded in its folk roots. All of the vocals are entirely in Nynorsk, a dialect of Norwegian, and while the album insert contains English descriptions of a few of the songs, there are no direct English translations of the lyrics. Keeping the exact meanings of the words just out of reach serves to deepen the enigma of Grimen and creates a need to delve deeper into the music to puzzle out its intended significance.

Electronica-backed black metal might at first glance seem an odd choice to blend with fiddle-driven folk music, but the often melancholy sounds of Grimen show that the distances between styles of music are only as far as the listener’s preconceptions make them. Whether mired in the mysterious and transcendental meanderings of “Daudingen,” drowning in the increasingly oppressive atmosphere of “Fanitullen,” or drifting in the rapturous sea of Knut’s deceptively soothing voice in title track, “Grimen,” Hardingrock reveals that all forms of music have commonalities that can be successfully built upon to create new and innovative sounds, and as long as the music can invoke a deep feeling in its audience, then its label is entirely irrelevant.

Highs: Ihsahn's trademark growls and guitar work on a folk album with eerie keyboards

Lows: The whole CD really needs to be listened to in one sitting - looking for a one shot metal track and hearing nothing but talking in Norwegian can be jarring

Bottom line: Masterfully creates a cross genre experiment that can be enjoyed by a wider range of people

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)