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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Review: Grimner - Frost Mot Eld


Since folk metal finds the majority of its inspiration in Vikings and their sagas, Grimner is, as to be expected and as it should be, a folk metal band from up north. Motala, Sweden, to be more precise. Founded in 2008 by vocalist/lead guitarist Ted Sjulmark and drummer Henry Persson, Grimner is now a six viking outfit with already two singles, three EP’s and a full-length release under their belt since 2010. Still to come, in march of this year, are yet another single and their latest full-length called ‘Frost mot eld’. Apart from the two founding fathers, Grimner consists of Marcus Asplund Brattberg as vocalist/rhythm guitarist, David Fransson on bass, Kristoffer ‘Koff’ Kullberg on keys and, last but definitely not least, Johan ‘Rambo’ Rydberg on flutes, mandola and Swedish bagpipes.

Like many other folk metal bands Grimner’s capable musicians mix their raw music with harsh vocals and traditional folk instruments which, as they claim, makes for a unique sound. Of course we all have heard those claims many times before, but in this case it actually holds true. Despite the fact there’s an equally distinct as inevitable recognizable vibe to this album it still stands out from most of what I have heard in this genre so far. The original compositions are most certainly a credit to that, but what struck me most is the impeccable fusion between the modern and the traditional instruments. While often the added traditional instruments sound as if they are a separate entity within a song, Grimner’s abundant use of the flutes, mandola and Swedish bagpipes actually blend in with the song structures build by the modern instruments as if they are naturally one. Most noticeable in this case are the flutes. Whether its rhythm frolicks around the base rhythm of the song in ‘Mörkrets hem’ or acts as a moody foreboding in ‘Res er mina söner’, it’s a perfect fit.

Now, I could of course review every single song separately, but I think that would be a mortal sin in this case. This album has to be consumed as a whole, or you’ll actually miss out on the overall experience, so I’ll treat it correspondingly. ‘Frost mot eld’ is an entertaining adventure from the first keystroke of ‘Res er mina soner’ until the final flute tunes of the slowly dying title song. It is very obvious these guys are truly enjoying making music and that they’re good at it at that. This is one of those albums that has a very pleasant vibe and where one vivacious rhythm after another makes sure you’ll never get bored.

Both vocalists complement and amplify each other, the one growling and grunting , the other more soothing and clear and at times joined together as one. The guitar work is skilled, strong, tight and solid, with the occasional solo and the somewhat light mix give the otherwise heavy pieces a more vibrant sound. This fits the tone and atmosphere the traditional instruments, an important part of Grimner’s music, create like a glove. The bass lines are a bit weak in the mix, but to be honest, that is not troublesome, because even though they’re not particularly showy, you definitely do notice them. This of course is in no way an indication of David Fransson’s skills, for they are unquestionably grand. As if to compensate for the weaker mixed bass the drums have a more prominent role. At times they support the base rhythm of the song, while elsewhere they can lead a life of their own, without ever getting out of sync. And then there’s the keys that actually follow the same type of routine. Supporting at times, filling ‘gaps’ in the music perfectly, leading in other parts. I have tried my best, after all that is my job, but I cannot find a single weakness on this album. Highlights though, are easier to find, although the entire album is a highlight as far as I’m concerned. My favorites are the power metal-ish ‘Midgård Brinner’, the lively ‘Mörkrets Hem’ and the heavy ‘Muspelheims Härskare’.

Summarizing ‘Frost mot eld’ is a typical, yet not-so-typical folk metal album. The most predominant in the mix, along with the drums, are the traditional instruments who I think they are key to the pleasant vibe and also one of the reasons Grimner’s music stands out from the pack. Make no mistake, though, despite this the role of the other instruments is definitely not to be underestimated. It’s the combination of all the components and the mutual integration and tuning that make Grimner’s music awesome and ‘Frost mot eld’ an excellent album. Add to that the surprisingly fitting light overall sound and this has all the makings of a legendary album, at least in my book. If you don’t like traditional instruments you’ll have a tough time digesting this album, but then again, if you don’t you’re not very likely to dig around in this genre in the first place since traditionals and folk metal are inseparable. So to all who read this: you should, no you must, give this a try.

Written by Henric van Essen

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