Skalmold – ‘Ydalir’

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Viking/Folk Metal

Napalm Records

Release Date – August 18th 2023

Review by Smudge

Skalmold, which loosely translated means Age of Sword’ and often refers to the period of the 13th-century Icelandic civil war also known as the ‘Sturlung Era’, is an Icelandic Viking/Folk metal band formed in 2009 and this is their 6th full album.

Album opener ‘Yr’ is a minute plus of gentle acoustic guitar and organ before the blitzkrieg of the title track comes crashing in with some razor-sharp riffage and pounding rhythms two voices, one death metal and the other black metal, bark orders in their native tongue. Whatever they’re saying they sound like they mean business – so no point arguing coz the Vikings are coming! ‘Urour’ also doesn’t hang about and grounds you down in a world of chug and big open chords before a spidery riff takes over and those two voices are in charge again. It’s beefed up (like it needs it) with a Hammond organ and a huge choral backing where you can imagine battle-scarred men with beards like privet hedges swaying and spilling strong ale from horns. ‘Ratatoskur’ is a bit more traditional with the black metal singer giving it large on a sea shanty before ‘Veroandi’ brings a horn-throwing folk metal stomp.

It’s back to the rapid Viking metal on ‘Veourfolnir’ which starts with a punchy chugging riff until about two minutes in when the riff changes and you find yourself banging your head! ‘Skuld’ stomps again and has you singing the simple chorus before the melodic metal banger ‘Niohoggur’ brings another beautiful choral piece. They save the best until last, an eleven-minute epic ‘Ullur’ has some quite stunning guitar leads from Arni Baldvinsson and goes through wonderful passages of traditional Icelandic folk all played beside a spitting fire then it builds through another swaying sing-along chorus before an almighty climax.

Skalmold writes songs about Icelandic tales and mythology and although the songs are sung in their native tongue the music just takes you away. They can convey fierce battles, sailing on stormy freezing seas, the joy of winning and the grief of loss in a way that I haven’t heard in any other band. I thoroughly recommend you listen to this because it’s different and yet it will have some familiarity and you don’t have to know what they’re saying to understand the songs. (All spellings are by me and I apologise if any are wrong – Google Translate doesn’t like Icelandic!)

Track List –

1 – Yr

2 – Ydalir

3 – Urour

4 – Ratatoskur

5 – Veroandi

6 – Veourfolnir

7 – Skuld

8 – Niohoggur

9 – Ullur

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