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Gjallarhorn - Grimborg CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.04 | 7 ratings

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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.

Neu!mann | 2/5 |


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