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Skalmold - "Börn Loka" (CD)

Skalmold - "Börn Loka" CD cover image

"Börn Loka" track listing:

1. Óðinn (2:14)
2. Sleipnir (6:27)
3. Gleipnir (4:01)
4. Fenrisúlfur (5:37)
5. Himinhrjóður (2:07)
6. Miðgarðsormur (5:19)
7. Narfi (3:53)
8. Hel (5:35)
9. Váli (6:11)
10. Loki (9:37)

Reviewed by on November 26, 2012

"'Börn Loka' doesn’t play by the rules and gleefully burns down the walls between genres during its 50-minute rampage."

Iceland definitely has an overall smaller pool of metal bands than many other nations from that branch of the world, but there are some very high quality acts from the Icelandic scene, and Skalmold has claimed a place among them with this second album. Leave your expectations at the door before pressing play, because there is much more to “Börn Loka” than the Norse god-based song titles and very Icewind Dale-esque cover artwork would suggest. There’s no question that Skálmöld is rooted in the “Viking metal” sound, but there’s whole worlds beyond that general idea to explore on this album.

These 10 tracks all feature three major styles that overlap and intermingle with other – folk/Viking metal, a very abrasive sort of crusty metal that borders up on grind, and then some serious guitar shredding in the melodic death metal style with some thrash touches. In this instance, “folk” definitely doesn’t have to mean “upbeat,” as songs like “Hel” have their share of traditional bagpipe style sounds, but are still intensely dark. Some tracks have more focus on one area than another (“Miðgarðsormur” has much more of the Viking style and “Narfi” is steeped in the folk side), but all of them eventually bring up some sound from each of the overall genre contributions.

Overall, the disc gets the right feel across: making a listener want to head bang furiously without losing their horned helmet, or spilling their mead while killing a sworn foe with an axe. With all these drastically different sounds, the album can’t help but have a few instances where the combination doesn’t come off perfectly. Some places, such as the ending of “Hel,” become far too chaotic to keep up with, as all the different styles clash violently without any space between them. The interlude track “Himinhrjóður” is also a take-it-or-leave-it offering, consisting mostly of some huge beast making loud noises as it’s hunted down. It’s cool in concept, but is definitely a track to skip over multiple listens.

“Börn Loka” doesn’t play by the rules and gleefully burns down the walls between genres during its 50-minute rampage. Being familiar with either Tyr or Korpiklaani won’t prepare you for the style of Viking/folk assault here, and the unexpected arrival of extremely harsh vocals and fast death riffing results in something unique worth hearing.

Highs: This is an exercise in cross-genre pollination: Viking/folk collides with crusty punk/grind and death metal.

Lows: The very opposing styles don't always work perfectly together.

Bottom line: Viking metal gets a facelift, as this Icelandic act throws in several different genre styles for an unexpectedly extreme twist.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 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)