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GJALLARHORN

Prog Folk • Finland


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Gjallarhorn biography
This adventurous Ostrobothnian quartet formed in 1994 have created an alluring and successful style that has launched for them a thriving international career. Combining the Swedish folk music tradition of Finland with medieval ballads, ancient poems and rich, acoustic soundscapes, GJALLARHORN conjure an atmospherically charged sound fronted by Jenny Wilhelms' vocals and didgeridoo, integrating perfectly with the Norwegian hardanger fiddle, violin, mandola and percussion.

GJALLARHORN are Jenny WILHELMS on vocals, violin and hardanger fiddle; Adrian JONES on viola, mandola, vocals and kalimba; Tommy MANSIKKA-AHO on aho, didgeridoo, mungiga, udu and djembe; and Peter BERNDALEN on percussion and kaliba. WILHELMS is an outstanding vocalist, with a soft soprano that is layered throughout "Sjofn" to create a sense of abandon that is oddly tender and never harsh. She sings in the traditional Scandinavian style, with occasional flourishes from Indian vocal traditions. Wherever it comes from, it's phenomenal. Think Vartina without the shrill factor; after all, WILHELMS doesn't need to use her voice as percussion because she is supported by an awesome collections of percussive sounds and the drone of the didgeridoo.

GJALLARHORN takes us deep into Scandinavia, to parts with warm, subtle Swedish and Finnish accents and the epic ballads we association with those northern parts. African and Oriental percussion instruments, and the Australian didgeridoo provide the obsessive drones. Violins, a jew's harp, a mandolin, a magnificent voice, cries resounding ad infinitum in the idea open spaces of Scandinavia ; a multitude of noises, echoes, buzzing and tapping sounds, are all used to serve tradition, with ancient epics, medieval ballads, and rites. This music has a strongly modern orientation.

: - : Alberto Ramos : - : <-> MEXICO

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SjofnSjofn
Northside Records 2000
Audio CD$49.95
$25.00 (used)
GrimborgGrimborg
Northside Records 2002
Audio CD$19.99 (used)
Ranarop: Call Of The Sea WitchRanarop: Call Of The Sea Witch
Finlandia 1998
Audio CD$356.90
$60.00 (used)
NordheimNordheim
Import
Dragonheart 2013
Audio CD$8.86
$7.63 (used)
Ranarop: Call Of The Sea Witch by GjallarhornRanarop: Call Of The Sea Witch by Gjallarhorn
Finlandia
Audio CD$315.06
Nordheim by Gjallarhorn (2005-05-30)Nordheim by Gjallarhorn (2005-05-30)
Dragonheart
Audio CD$65.46
Grimborg by Gjallarhorn (2003-11-24)Grimborg by Gjallarhorn (2003-11-24)
Vindauga Music
Audio CD$186.15
Nordheim by Dragonheart (2005-05-30)Nordheim by Dragonheart (2005-05-30)
Dragonheart (2005-05-30)
Audio CD$43.12
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GJALLARHORN discography


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GJALLARHORN top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.98 | 8 ratings
Ranarop / Call of the Sea Witch
1998
4.25 | 11 ratings
Sjofn
2000
3.04 | 6 ratings
Grimborg
2002
3.05 | 4 ratings
Rimfaxe
2006

GJALLARHORN Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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GJALLARHORN Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Rimfaxe  by GJALLARHORN album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.05 | 4 ratings

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Rimfaxe
Gjallarhorn Prog Folk

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

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.

 Grimborg by GJALLARHORN album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.04 | 6 ratings

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Grimborg
Gjallarhorn Prog Folk

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

2 stars After releasing a career-defining album at the end of the last millennium ("Sjofn", 2000), the Gjallarhorn quartet banked their creative fires before recording a follow-up two years later, dialing back the spirited energy of the band's earlier efforts to near austerity levels. What happened to all those compelling ancient melodies, and the lively arrangements of Old Norse folk tunes?

A possible clue to the apparent lack of motivation can be found in the updated personnel roster, hinting at internal stresses which might have carried over into the studio. Percussion master David Lillkvist was demoted to a supporting role, and although he appears on most of the tracks his commanding presence is entirely absent. And Tommy Mansikka-Aho's distinctive slideridoo (a combination didgeridoo/trombone, capable of changing pitch) was likewise pushed too far into the background, only allowed one brief, funky solo spot on the album's shortest track, the West African inspired "Njawara".

The reconfigured instrumentation forced the melancholy hardanger fiddles and violas to carry the slack, mostly in support of Jenny Wilhelms' lovely voice, curiously restrained throughout these sessions. Another telling clue: Wilhelms would hereafter be credited as the band's Executive Producer, a duty previously shared by the entire group. I would never accuse her of becoming an autocratic bandleader like Roger Waters or Ian Anderson, but some vital spark of collaboration was obviously misplaced in the new alignment, and the loss is audible.

Of course I might be overreacting to the letdown that inevitably follows a near-masterpiece. The new album was praised around the globe, and won a coveted prize from the Académie Charles Cros. Arguably it's simply a more mature effort, although that's not an argument I'm willing to make. Fusty is a better word to describe the unremarkable music here, too self-conscious of its own sense of borrowed tradition, but without a memorable tune over the album's near one-hour length.

Sadly, the third time was not a charm.

 Ranarop / Call of the Sea Witch by GJALLARHORN album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.98 | 8 ratings

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Ranarop / Call of the Sea Witch
Gjallarhorn Prog Folk

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The first album by the celebrated Ostrobothnian quartet (named after the 'Yelling Horn' of the mead-drinking Old Norse deity Heimdallr) opens with a sudden burst of aboriginal revelry, sounding not unlike a band of night clubbers party-crashing a pagan fire ritual. It's a compelling prelude, not just to the album itself but for the career of a new and exciting group of musical time-travelers, embracing their antique Scandinavian heritage from inside a modern recording studio, without a trace of anachronism in sight.

Their debut is the most traditional of the band's four albums, but in truth the Prog Folk category is only a flag of convenience, hoisted over the Gjallarhorn page in these Archives because no one has yet defined a sub-genre called Progressive World Music. The group (now defunct) made its home in a Swedish-speaking corner of Finland, while cultivating strong spiritual ties to a much wider span of Nordic myth and history, expressed with a cultural integrity that bands like Dead Can Dance (fellow travelers, but tourists by comparison) only dream about achieving.

Thus, the prominent didgeridoo: an odd choice for instrumental support in a group so far removed from outback Australia, but not unheard of in Scandinavian folk music circles. Here the ancient aerophone functions almost like a second vocalist, in stark contrast to the soaring voice of Jenny Wilhelms, and capable of a growling, coughing virtuosity all its own, sounding like a barely domesticated animal recalling the freedom of its life in the wild.

I had to blush when re-reading that last observation, clearly made while under the album's almost transcendental spell. But I'm letting it stand, as a reflection of the music's hold over a sensitive listener. The delicate ballads ("I Riden Så..."); the urgent prayers for sun and thunder ("Solbön-Âskan"); the medieval folk tunes, minuets, and fables...all combine to keep the distant past alive and vital, in a form no less fresh than they were, centuries ago.

And, as a welcome bonus, the album was re-released in 2002 with an extra track: "Reindeer Dreaming", part of a soundtrack to a documentary film by Antii Haase. The movie follows a tribe of indigenous Australians invited to attend a local arts festival in Finland: a true meeting of far-flung kindred souls, concluding an album that also feels like a surprise visit from close friends you never knew existed.

 Sjofn by GJALLARHORN album cover Studio Album, 2000
4.25 | 11 ratings

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Sjofn
Gjallarhorn Prog Folk

Review by Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer

4 stars No album deserves five unconditional stars at first exposure, but the second (and best) effort by Gjallarhorn might prove to be an exception. The acoustic folk quartet inhabits a place where myth and music overlap, but don't expect to hear another unwashed folk art anthropology act. In textbook Prog fashion the group sits easily astride opposing worlds: the contemporary and the traditional, playing in a style far too modern for the Folk Music tag but too authentically ancient for any strictly Progressive cubbyhole.

It's a great combination, arranged here in perfect balance: part medieval austerity, part toe-tapping finesse, locally sourced but with a much wider appeal. The Hardanger fiddles and mandolas give the music its rustic flavor, conjuring images of distant boreal forest under heavy snow. And the didgeridoo (!) provides the unique pagan aura..."the constant shamanistic pulse of the old tunes", as noted in the extensive CD notes...in this instance recalling the drone of a malfunctioning Celtic bagpipe but still evoking backwoods Scandinavia (the group hails from western Finland, but has strong cultural ties to nearby Sweden).

An arsenal of discreet but ubiquitous percussion further enhances the band's global reach, extending far beyond their winter homeland toward India, central Africa, and back-of-beyond Australia. But the real attraction here is the dulcet voice of Jenny Wilhelms, to this Anglophile sounding not unlike a Nordic Annie Haslam, with the same transparent clarity and astonishing octave range. Her multi-tracked choral harmonies are things of mesmeric beauty, whether intoning a pre-Christian hymn to the spirits of air and earth ("Kom Helge Ande"), recalling playful age-old fables ("Tova och Konungen", given extra bounce from some funky upright double bass), or invoking the healing wind deity Suvetar in the song of the same name, which rises from a simple kalimba intro to an ecstasy of elemental power, all the more impressive considering the lack of electronics.

Wilhelms was also the album's primary composer, usually integrating lyrics borrowed from traditional sources, sung in Swedish but helpfully translated to English inside the CD booklet. Progressive Rock has often looked to folklore for inspiration, but rarely with this degree of legitimacy, drawn from songs and stories already embedded deep inside the band's collective psyche, about water sprites, Icelandic trolls, handsome kings and peasant girls, and...dolphins? The latter aren't exactly native to the Ostrobothnia region of Finland, but no matter: the otherworldly sounds (recorded in the South Pacific) only add more texture to an already atmospheric performance.

The album was named for the Norse goddess of love: "the guardian of these recordings", says the band on the CD's back cover. Fair enough, no wonder I'm smitten. If the music of northern European latitudes is like a lodestone to you as well, prepare to be compelled by the irresistible magnetic tug of this innovative group.

 Rimfaxe  by GJALLARHORN album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.05 | 4 ratings

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Rimfaxe
Gjallarhorn Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars Gjallarhorn’s fourth album is their most polished by far, and in some ways their least interesting (possibly for the same reason). The most noticeable difference is the relatively less pronounced use of widely varied percussive instruments that marked the band’s second and third albums. Petter Berndalen, who boasts an advanced university degree in folk percussion, still outpaces most every other prog percussionist I know, but he tends to rely a bit too much on hand drums here for my liking, and a bit less on some of the more ethnic and exotic hand instruments he experimented with earlier in the band’s career.

The other notable change is the much-reduced presence of didgeridoo drone, replaced for the most part with a recorder that doesn’t quite do the same job. That said, aside from drone there are some quite nice flute and recorder passages on “Systrarna”, the guttural “Hymn” and folksy “Staffan”. Jenny Willhelms seems to back away from her violin and hardanger fiddle as well, except for the two ‘Taklax’ tracks (1037 and 1034), both of which are instrumentals centered on her trademark strident fiddling and vaguely Celtic trills.

My favorite tune here is the all-acoustic and guitar-picking centered “Staffan” with its sparse hand drumming, Willhelms’ soothing chants and just a touch of mandola for effect. A modern Scandinavian folk classic, fer sher. The other song worth mentioning is the dark and pulsating “Blacken” with its heavy violin progressions, loosely syncopated acoustic drums, tense breaks and WIllhelms’ turgid singing. This one will likely end up on the inevitable ‘Best of’ album the band will release some time in the near future.

The most impressive thing about this album is that it was produced by American Bruce Swedien, five-time Grammy Award winner and sound engineer of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, the biggest selling music album in history.

This album won’t come anywhere close to that, but it is a decent hour of Scandinavian folk with African, Arab and European folk nuances. I’ve enjoyed playing it several times, particularly on quiet evenings; but I can’t say as this is a CD that is ever going to be in heavy rotation on my disc changer. In fact I’ll probably toss it on the shelf next to the rest of the band’s CDs in anticipation of a cold winter night when an ambient Swedish record fits the bill. Good enough for three stars but not much more than that.

peace

 Ranarop / Call of the Sea Witch by GJALLARHORN album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.98 | 8 ratings

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Ranarop / Call of the Sea Witch
Gjallarhorn Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

4 stars Gjallarhorn are a band that have shown a strong interest in percussion since their beginning, and there are several such exotic sounds on this (their debut) album. Turkish jazz musician Okay Temiz appears as a guest and is credited with playing the tabla, darabouka, finger cymbals and “slagverk”, which I think is a generic term referring to any combination of instruments that one happens to pound on with a stick or mallet. This gives the album a world music sound and a musical range that the band themselves didn’t quite have the expertise to pull off at that point in their career. But they would remedy that by adding master percussionist Petter Berndalen to their lineup by the time they recorded the follow-up to this album.

I guess there’s a central theme here focused on Norse mythology and folklore, as is most of Gjallarhorn’s music. In fact, the album was named as Finland’s 1997 folk CD of the year, and the group was named folk band of the year. That’s really what established them for the rest of their career. But unless you know Swedish, Finnish and whatever obscure regional dialects some of the lyrics are printed and sung in you will have to rely on translated song titles and your imagination to figure out what Jenny Willhelms is singing about.

As with their other albums Ms. Willhelms’ voice is striking, wide-ranging and expressive without becoming shrill (for the most part), as sometimes happens with female Nordic singers. She also seems to sing more on this album than on the subsequent three, perhaps because there is noticeably less instrumental variety here than on those records. The band seems to be working to find their sound and doing an admirable job, but with not quite the sense of purpose that ‘Sjofn’ and, to a lesser extent, ‘Grimborg’ would have.

I’ve compared these guys to Garmarna before and probably will again since it’s a valid comparison, and even more so with this album on songs like “I riden så...” where the Turkish percussion is not so noticeable and the band’s more fundamental Nordic folk sound comes to the forefront.

There is one tendency on this album that I found a bit annoying, and it surfaced again on ‘Grimborg’ so is worth mentioning. With some of their more mellow tunes (relatively-speaking of course – this is folk music after all), the band offers up nothing more than one or two instruments (typically some sort of hand drum and some bleats from their didgeridoo), then Ms. Willhelms languidly chants out some old Nordic folk tale. The real problem is that the instrumentation is so sparse that not only is the mood of the album lost, but those songs are actually quite hard to hear so you’ll want to be close to a volume knob as you listen to this record. “Sjöjungfrun och konungadottern” is the most noticeable song like this, but “Kulning” suffers from this as well. Speaking of “Kulning”, Willhelms does some of her trill pagan chanting on that one – that’ll make your hair stand up.

I’m sure this album is more important to Swedish and Finnish folks than to someone like me. I like this band, and although some of their later albums suffer from overproduction and what seems to be too much focus on mass appeal, this debut is a great snapshot of a band in the process of becoming something cohesive, articulate and special. Progressive folk fans will undoubtedly find this record enchanting, as will most world music fans. Four stars for an excellent debut, and well recommended to those types of people I just mentioned.

peace

 Grimborg by GJALLARHORN album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.04 | 6 ratings

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Grimborg
Gjallarhorn Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator 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.

peace

 Sjofn by GJALLARHORN album cover Studio Album, 2000
4.25 | 11 ratings

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Sjofn
Gjallarhorn Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

4 stars There seems to me to be something about Swedish musicians (or in this case Swedish-speaking Finnish ones) that really demands attention. Maybe it’s because of my great-great-great grandfather Sven Peter’s bloodlines, not sure, but the attraction is very strong and persistent.

But some of the best folk-leaning music from that region also seems to have a tendency toward broad experimentation in instrumentation as well as both fanciful and regionally-traditional themes, all of which add to the appeal. Gjallarhorn are no exception. This album, though featuring only a quartet of musicians still manages to employ no less than two dozen instruments, many of them falling in the ‘world music’ category. There are of course regional traditional instruments such as the Norwegian (hardanger) fiddle, Celtic tenor mandola, viola and violin. But the band turns to both South America and Africa for their percussion, and this is where they manage to turn what might be otherwise unexceptional folk music into something vibrant and hypnotic. From Africa the band employs the sounds of a kalimba (thumb piano), bongos, djembe, kalimba hand piano, udu; from Arab lands the wooden-sounding darabuka; and from Brazil the surdo drum. The distinctive sounds of the Australian didgeridoo and slideridoo continue from the band’s first album, as does the mungiga (Jew’s harp), which I never noticed before but that instrument actually sounds a bit like a didgeridoo at times.

Lead vocalist Jenny Wilkhelms has a surprisingly soft and melodic vocal timbre, which I say only because most of my previous experience with Nordic female singers is that they seem to tend toward a certain level of shrillness, particularly in their native tongues. Gjallarhorn (and Wilkhelms in particular) have been compared to their countrymen (or is that countrywomen) Värttinä, only without the heavy trilling in the singing. Vocally I think that’s an accurate description, but musically Gjallarhorn are far more adventurous than Värttinä’s basically folk-infused pop music. Just a side observation, but worth noting. One other spurious observation: on “Dejelill och Lagerman” Wilkhelms’ chanting sounds strikingly like Kate Bush’s “Leave it Open” or maybe the title track from ‘The Dreaming’.

So back to the percussion, which really makes the music here stand out from other Nordic folk acts. Petter Berndalen is a classically trained percussionist who actually holds a university degree in Swedish folk music (who knew there was such a thing). When listening to these tracks I try to imagine them without the various drums, bells, whistles and shakers. Frankly they would end up being good music anyway since Wilkhelms is an accomplished writer and her vocals complement the strings quite well, but overall my impression is the songs would sound dated and rather pedestrian without Berndalen.

The vocals here are all (I assume) sung in Swedish; at least I know they’re not in English. The themes are fanciful (goddesses, water sprites, haunted mountains and fair kings), as well as with historical and cultural references. In several places Wilkhelms overdubs herself with her own vocal tracks, and this combined with what sounds like 16-track recording with several percussion tracks gives the impression there are a lot more musicians involved than there really are. It would seem that this album gestated for quite a while in the studio. The strings are also quite exceptional throughout, and especially because they manage to avoid that distinctly Nordic trap of sounding morbid and depressing. These folks get plenty of time in the sun and it shows in their music. The strings are at times languid, even sad, but never mournful and usually quite vibrant. A press photo of the band on their web site’s home page shows them standing in a sunny meadow instead of a dank, dark castle like so many other Nordic bands are cast, and the upbeat outlook also shows in their music.

I’m not sure there is a highlight on the album, but one other track worth noting is the instrumental “Berhfäst” which combines the Norwegian and traditional fiddles with a bit of viola into a really gorgeous string composition that seems altogether far shorter than the nearly eight minutes that it runs. I’ve played this several times over and can’t quite put my finger on what makes it special, but the effect of the strings is very hypnotic.

So I don’t know much about these guys beyond what’s on their web site and what I have read here and elsewhere, but I like their music and am already looking into the rest of their discography. This is an excellent, dynamic, upbeat and multi-layered modern folk album from a band with a bright future. Four stars without a doubt and very highly recommended to both folk and world music fans.

peace

 Grimborg by GJALLARHORN album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.04 | 6 ratings

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Grimborg
Gjallarhorn Prog Folk

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This is not prog folk, not even ethnic pop/rock or 'world music' which means basically pop music with ethnic elements. This is pure ethno music, played by ethnic instruments (fiddle, hardangerfiddle, shaman drum, didgeridoo, berimbau, tambourine, udu, djembe, viola, mandola etc) and songs are based on old traditional Nordic tunes. To me it's not clear on what ground Gjallarhorn is included in PA while ethno is generally out of question. Well, they bring together instruments from various corners of the world, all ethnic though. The problem lies in unequality: why one or two well-known ethno groups are here and others aren't? And it's also a question of credibility: to call this Prog Folk gives false expectations about the music. I'm not VERY much into ethnic or world music, but I'm sure there are lots of 'world' bands even more suitable into PA than Gjallarhorn. At least PIIRPAUKE (world music/jazz/art rock) would be a good addition, right?.

End of lecture. Gjallarhorn is pretty good music and it's after all always great to find different kinds of music to listen to. So I'm definitely not saying Gjallarhorn shouldn't be here, instead I'd add lots of groups from various music genres (which ARE to be crossed over!!) and invent more honest subgenres for them.

This band is from my country, Finland - Swedish speaking parts of it, and their musical roots are Scandinavian. One ethno artist I've listened to is Swedish Lena Willemark and this sounded very much similar. I 'found' her via HECTOR ZAZOU, who makes very interesting albums with a large number of guest singers from Björk to Laurie Anderson. (Pardon my advertisement.) Gjallarhorn's vocalist Jenny Wilhelms has equally clear and strong voice just perfect to evoke images of vast untouchable landscapes with mountains, lakes and fjords.

The leaflet has introductions to songs in Swedish, English and French. One example: "Based on a medieval ballad from Sweden, about the King who dresses up as a sailor and steals away the girl he loves, then takes her out on the high seas to see if she tryly loves him, before he reveals his real status. She is furious but very convincing about her true affection." The sound is dominated by fiddles and rich percussion. If I would dive deeper into Ethno, Gjallarhorn would be a very good starting point. And that it must have been to many people around the world. "With their dynamic world music arrangements Gjallarhorn has brought the old Nordic tonality to a modern audience in both the jazz, rock and world music field."

 Grimborg by GJALLARHORN album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.04 | 6 ratings

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Grimborg
Gjallarhorn Prog Folk

Review by Eetu Pellonpaa
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars This third long player of the Finnish-Swede world music group was my first encounter with them. They combine Scandinavian folk music with more exotic oriental musical elements like didgeridoos, djembes and such, creating pleasant musical patterns and an enchanting realm of sounds. Jenny Willhelms' gentle voice is soothing thing to listen to, and often violin driven melodic numbers are enriched with thick layers of percussions, making the music being quite strong and drawing all of the listener's concentration. There are both uplifting and melancholic constructed traditional songs here, and few more ethereal atmospheric numbers like a cow-call and didgeridoo solo number. For a comparison to something else, this album sounded slightly as a more tamer and sophisticated version of Garmarna's first EP to me. The rawness of that album pleased me little more than this record, but nevertheless "Grimborg" is still also very good and a recommendable album, and the other albums of Gjallarhorn are on my listening queue. As an anecdote, there's a similar "hidden picture illusion" in the inner sleeve of the album cover, like in the Änglagård's "Epilog" cover, forming a vision of a face appearing from a forest landscape.
Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition.

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