ALBUM REVIEW: Vögguvísur Yggdrasils – Skálmöld

The latest album from Iceland’s SKÁLMÖLD is Vögguvísur Yggdrasils. Yggdrasils is huge tree which connects the nine realms of Norse mythology and every track on Vögguvísur Yggdrasils represents one of those realms. As with SKÁLMÖLD‘s previous albums, Baldur, Born Loka and Med Vaettum, Vögguvísur Yggdrasils is written entirely in Icelandic, but that hasn’t prevented the band from building a sizeable following as a result of support slots across Europe. SKÁLMÖLD probably aren’t done any favours by labelling; they aren’t folk metal, they aren’t viking metal, but they are inspired by Icelandic Mythology and the landscape of their native land.   

Musically, SKÁLMÖLD are well oiled machine with complex interplay between their three guitarists. In such a solid unit it seems a shame to single out any band member for special attention, but lead guitarist Þráinn Árni Baldvinsson plays a blinder, his fingers flying nimbly across his fretboard, yet playing with restraint when needed. Mere ‘Shredder’ he ain’t and SKÁLMÖLD are all the better for it.

First track Muspell is a complex beast, the rock solid rhythm pairing of drummer Jón Geir Jóhannsson and bassist Snæbjörn Ragnarsson, who recently assisted ELUVEITIE for a short spell, crack the whip and keep things galloping ever onward. Around them there’s a touch of black metal atmospherics and the first of many fluid solos, giving Muspell an epic, sweeping feel. Niflheimur is a slow, growly chugger. Nidavellir takes a little IRON MAIDEN influence and gives it a liberal dosing of folk. Listen to Nidavellir once and you’ll have the main riff lodged in your brain for weeks. Midgardur is also built upon the New Wave of British Heavy Metal foundations.

Utgardur, like most of its predecessors, has its roots in classic metal. This time it’s a knowing nod towards the formative years of METALLICA, with a ditty which bears a passing resemblance to Escape from Ride The Lightning. Just when you thought SKÁLMÖLD had finished referencing classic rock influences, stone the crows, they go and do it again on Alfheimur, the first half of which would pass muster if retrospectively grafted into one of QUEEN’S more grandiose explorations. There’s a smattering of insistent, almost chanted, vocals late on in the piece and there is a word which springs to mind when attempting to describe Alfheimur. Epic. Yes that’s the word, epic.

Asgardur comes dangerously close to earning another use of the ‘E’ word and therein lies one of the most refreshing aspects of SKÁLMÖLD‘s latest opus; every single track has been lovingly crafted and refined to a level only discovered upon multiple listens whereas Hellheimur is three minutes of heads down, no nonsense metal, set to launch a thousand circle pits.

Vanaheimur has so many influences woven into its fabric it seems churlish and pointless to list them. Its SKÁLMÖLD’s Stairway To Heaven or Bohemian Rhapsody and those are comparisons not made lightly.

If you have, at any point, claimed to like rock music and can look anyone in the eye to tell them that you can’t find anything to cherish on Vögguvísur Yggdrasils, then you sir are a liar or deaf. Absolutely stunning.  

Rating: 10/10

Vögguvísur Yggdrasils - Skálmöld

Vögguvísur Yggdrasils is set for release on September 30th via Napalm Records.

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