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Gjallarhorn - Rimfaxe  CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.05 | 4 ratings

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3 stars The fourth and last album from the dynamic Scandinavian roots music ensemble improved on its predecessor ("Grimborg", 2002), but fatally trapped the band in a pitfall of their own making. Progressive Rock aficionados know the story all too well, how the challenges of coping with sudden acclaim prompted several line-up changes, which in turn undermined the band's unique chemistry, and so on...

New percussionist Peter Berndalen introduced a conventional drum kit to a rhythm section previously known for its eclectic ethnicity. And that distinctive didgeridoo/slideridoo, as much a key to the Gjallarhorn sound as Jenny Wilhelms's striking voice, was excised entirely, replaced by newcomer Göran Månsson and his sub-contrabass recorder, a modern instrument lacking the same, compelling pagan buzz of the ancient Australian 'drone pipe'.

But the group truly crossed an aesthetic Rubicon by allowing the new album to be mixed (in the United States) by Bruce Swedien, multiple Grammy winner and producer to superstars, in what had to be a calculated bid for a wider slice of the World Music Pie. The finished product is easy on the ears, but the slick new sound upset the delicate equilibrium between traditional music and contemporary recording that made their first albums so timeless.

The music itself at least shows more vitality than on the moribund "Grimborg", and was performed with admirable professionalism, albeit tainted by a nagging sense of commercial detachment. A happy exception is the song "Blacken", like the album itself named after another fabulous horse from Nordic mythology, and exhibiting all the deep Scandinavian passion and mystery missing elsewhere on the disc.

Listening to the album on its own terms can still be a pleasant experience. But the decision to elevate material ambition over the music was a mistake, and the genuine spiritual energy of early Gjallarhorn is missed. Think Global, Act Local, should have stayed the band's mantra, instead of the other way round.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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