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Skalmold - "Með Vættum" (CD)

Skalmold - "Með Vættum" CD cover image

"Með Vættum" track listing:

1. Að vori
2. Með fuglum
3. Að sumri
4. Með drekum
5. Að hausti
6. Með jötnum
7. Að vetri
8. Með griðungum

Reviewed by on December 30, 2014

"Showcasing a clear progression in sound from the last album with a tighter focus but still plenty of experimentation, this latest outing from Skálmöld deserves to be heard by existing fans and newcomers alike."

Part of the triumvirate of Iceland's underground metal scene, Skálmöld really needs to hit the road in the U.S. with Solstafir and Beneath for an all-Iceland package covering all the sub-genre bases. Speaking of covering all the genre bases: Skálmöld does that in spades with “Með Vættum,” and without losing focus or going off the rails.

As with the previous album, “Born Loka,” there is a Viking metal sound here and there tying it all together, but on the whole this band likes to try different things and play with different sounds. These guys don't just know how to play their specific genre, they instead have a solid grasp on all metal and music in general, and it really shows. Everything mixes together perfectly on these varied tracks, and it doesn't feel like the band is pulling from multiple styles across the album – rather it feels like all of them are properly together as one, with no boundaries between sub-genres.

Multiple vocal styles are found on the disc, with the base a harsh and deep growl featuring an electronic fuzz in the background. These may be may be a bit of an acquired taste that take some getting used to, as they are different than what you'd traditionally hear in anything death metal or Viking metal related. Backing up the harsh vocals are choral male clean singing on songs like “Ad Sumri,” for a touch of a folk feel.

Although it is definitely on the harsher and more brutal end, “Með Vættum” is more than just extreme metal, as the album fuses in classic metal guitar riffage (think Iron Maiden or Judas Priest) for a really well-rounded feel. On that same note, the album has a sweeping and epic feel without diving full-on into symphonic territory, so if you don't dig symphonic sounds overshadowing the heaviness you'll be right at home here.

Adding in an additional twist as the album nears its end, the (just under) 10 minute “Med Jotnum” slows everything way down into a doom landscape for a long instrumental stretch, before throwing in a building drum beat to increase the speed again. The final track also goes a much different direction than all the preceding songs, fusing together different speeds and styles across nine minutes, with the various styles more distinct and separate from each other.

Showcasing a clear progression in sound from the last album with a tighter focus but still plenty of experimentation, this latest outing from Skálmöld deserves to be heard by existing fans and newcomers alike.

Highs: Well rounded, with a strong grasp of both classic metal and more extreme and underground sounds

Lows: The slower moving doomy tracks do sag a bit, and the closing riff on the eighth track inadvertently has an odd Christmas jingle feel to it.

Bottom line: The Icelandic Viking heroes from Skálmöld hone their sound and try new things for a winning combo.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 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)