Glittertind - Blåne for blåne - (9/10)
Published on April 24, 2015
Glittertind was started by Torbjørn Sandvik in 2001, when he was seventeen. A solo project until 2008, the band initially did metal renditions of traditional Norwegian folk songs but eventually focused on mostly original material, done in a rather punky folk metal style. While the music was decent, it wasn’t until a decade after their formation, with 2013’s Djevelsvart, that the band really brought a substantial album that went beyond simple folk metal. Djevelsvart was an album that, lyrically, dealt with personal tragedies and trauma on different levels while the music was heavy and emotive, focusing on dark melodies and haunting atmospheres.
Two years after Djevelsvart, Glittertind bring their fourth full length album, Blåne for blåne. Turning away from the dark and traumatic subject nature, Sandvik reports that the lyrical thems on this album spring from the peace that man felt after years of war finally came to an end; specifically the end of World War II when mankind once again felt peace and hope. With this sense of peace firmly in mind, the band brought a lighter, airy sound, burgeoning with acoustic instrumentation compiled from elements of folk music from Norway and the sound of Americana folk rock. The result is miles away from anything the band has released before and it’s little wonder the band’s name has been appearing all over popular music channels in Norway and abroad.
When push comes to shove, Blåne for blåne sees Glittertind sounding more like Mumford and Sons, The Infamous Stringdusters or Trampled by Turtles on Blåne for blåne than likes themselves. That doesn’t automatically mean it’s a bad thing, but it’s likely to cause a divide between longtime fans of the band. Ineed, there have been numerous comments calling this a Norwegian Mumford and Sons, and even Glitterford and Sonstind, but it is a pretty apt, if persnickety description. Their new sound will sell more records because, as much as we can argue the musical merrits of this style until we’re blue in the face, this type of music is widely popular. The sound combines the traditional folk heard on earlier albums with an upbeat folk rock feel and completely subtracts the darkened atmospheres and brooding heaviness, which keeps with the themes of peace and harmony.
Seeing that the album cover depicts an acoustic guitar with a steel resonator, it should immediately bring thoughts of American bluegrass and vintage folk rock, as those were staple instruments in creating that twangy sound that was so popular. A majority of the songs focus on finger picked guitar melodies backed by mandolin passages and subtle percussion and the occasional flourish of cello, viola or french horn. Even though the band’s background is in folk metal, they do a really nice job of creating a convincingly peaceful and uplifting atmosphere. It’s tracks like the opener, “Ukjend land” or “Høyr min song (Til fridomen)” that are the most moving, really taking that classic twang of bluegrass and blending it with Norwegian folk passages.
Like Djevelsvart, the most breathtaking aspect of Glittertind’s sound are Sandvik’s clean, midrange vocals. Despite the hopeful and generally exalted nature of the music, Sandvik’s vocals carry a lingering melancholy that bubbles near the surface, which seems to shine brightest during the more emotive tracks such as “Soria Moria”, “Fnugg av snjo” and “Bøn”. Interestingly enough, these tracks play through more like gentle lullabies or the score to the ending credits of a drama. It’s the more upbeat, Americana inspired tracks that really showcase just how far Sandvik has come vocally with, hands down, the performance of his career.
Despite the drastic shift from a heavy handed and brooding folk metal outfit into something akin to a combination of bluegrass and folk pop, Glittertind manages to come out on top. Perhaps the fact that I grew up on bluegrass and Americana folk clouds my judgment, but I can’t help but like what Sandvikk and crew are doing here. It’s interesting that they chose to change their style to fit the lyrical themes, but it’s something that they chose well. The sense of peace, hope and love that began to sprout after the end of World War II is embodied in these ten tracks. So what if the band shifted to a more mainstream sound: it’s carefully crafted and, despite a few slow moments, it’s an album that’s likely to garner a lot of praise outside of the metal world.