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Gjallarhorn - Grimborg CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.04 | 6 ratings

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Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars It’s either that Gjallarhorn’s novelty has worn thin with this, the second of their albums I’ve had a chance to hear, or it just isn’t as good as the first (‘Sjofn’). Probably a little of both.

The wide range of percussive instruments on ‘Sjofn’ aren’t quite as prevalent here, although Petter Berndalen, Adrian Jones and Tommy Mansikka all manage to put together plenty of ethnically distinctive sounds, particularly the odd African kalimba finger pianos and the jew’s harp. The single most prominent instruments on this album turn out to be the strings played by lead singer (actually, only singer) Jenny Willhelms and to a lesser extent by Jones. These are not melodic strings though, but rather strident ones that at times almost sound as if Willhelms and Jones are sawing at them rather than bowing.

The band also continues their earlier practice of setting the base of the rhythm with a didgeridoo, possibly a common thing in the Outback or wherever but something that seems a bit unusual for a Swedish Finn band.

There are also a lot more instrumental tracks here than their previous release (“Polonaise”, “Menuett”, “Kulning”, “Längtaren”) as well as “Njawara” which features what appears to be a didgeridoo solo – how often do you get a chance to hear that?

The band’s previous work also featured rather short tunes, although ‘Sjofn’ did manage to include a couple of seven-minute plus works. Not so here, where none of the tunes is longer than five and a half minutes and nearly half of them are shorter than four minutes. Not that size (or in this case length) is everything, but it does seem that instrumental-heavy tunes are not usually fully developed in such a short space, and that is certainly true of most of these songs.

The opening “Konungadöttrarna” and closing “Längtaren” are the most folk-sounding tracks here with slower tempos, traditional themes and conservatively simple arrangements. “Herr Olof” is similar but employs a bit more percussion and for some stretches of the tune manages to take on an almost dance beat. Come to think of it, it is a strange tune for an album like this.

Someone who previously reviewed the album compared them to Garmarna and I can definitely see how they would make that comparison, although Gjallarhorn has a much wider range of instruments and a more polished sound. But the big difference for me is that once I finally ‘got’ Garmarna I was definitely hooked on just about everything in their catalog; with Gjallarhorn that same connection hasn’t happened yet, and I’m inclined to think it isn’t going to. This is the kind of band you are likely to hear on conservative, traditional public radio shows and see at ivy-draped college campus shows on the green. They don’t strike me as a band that is as interested in progressing their sound as they are in preserving it. So that makes them good at what they do, but not necessarily recommended for progressive music fans. Three stars with an acknowledgement that Nordic folk fans will probably like them a bit more than that.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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