The French collective Skáld come as a revelation to me. These are Frenchmen who expertly perform Nordic music and imbue it with everything from folk music to metal.
From the band’s press release:
“As the heirs of the ancient poets known as skalds, the SKÁLD group, with one song after another, tames this folk tradition. We can lose ourselves in the hills of Danish elves, and meet Swedish nymphs, as we listen to the ballad of Herr Mannelig, the tale of a female troll who hopes to become human (by attempting to wed a knight), or linger to the strains of the legend of Fafnir the dragon.
What SKÁLD proposes here is not so much the reconstitution of a bygone era, but rather an adventure, an experience that smacks of History, its mythologies and legends, an adventure that makes us dream of Nature, the forests, rivers and mysteries found in the folklore of the Far North. It is an odyssey of inspired medievalism and fantasy, a mixture of ancient texts and newer sources dating from the Middle Ages. Making use of themes taken from the Gylfaginning, the Skáldskapármal or the Grólgardr, these stories, handed down from one generation to the next, have reached us through the lyrical and guttural songs of SKÁLD, whose accents mingle to form chants of softness that would no doubt make ancient nymphs turn green with envy…
Over a dozen musicians responded to SKÁLD’s call, and throughout this album they express their sensibilities with great skill. The harp and pipes quiver beneath the nimble fingers of Daniela Heiderich, and the bow of Aliocha Regnard’s nyckelharpa produces notes that date back to the 14th century; the Moraharpa, Lyre and Talharpa release sublime sounds in the hands of Ravn, while at the same time the hurdy-gurdy, played by Laetitia Marcangeli, produces hypnotic vibrations, and Nicolas Montazaud, Marti Ilmar Uibo and Christophe Voisin-Boisvinet lend power to their percussion. As for these chanting songs, they are a wonderful concentrate produced by the talents of Steeve Petit, Lily Jung, Marti Ilmar Uibo, Laetitia Marcangeli, Michel Abraham, Kohann, Julien Loko and Adeline Bellart.”
I haven’t heard anything this engaging in a while, and last year was a banner year for world and ethnic music. One final treat; their covers of Rammstein’s Du Hast and The Cure’s A Forest are spot-on.