In 2003 LUMSK put themselves squarely on the Folk Metal scene with the solid “Åsmund Frægdegjevar,“ an album that everybody seemed to love more than I did (I liked it, sure, but it didn’t grab me the way it did other people). In early 2005, the group won 500,000 NOK at a Norwegian music festival and used the money to fund the recording of their second album, 2005’s "Troll.“ As with "Åsmund Frægdegjevar,“ Norwegian folklore is the focus of the album and the lyrics were written by Birger and Kristen Sivertsen, the former of whom at least is apparently a well-renowned folklore expert.
Folk is definitely the most important descriptor here. It was certainly a major factor on "Åsmund Frægdegjevar,“ but here it almost completely nudges out the Metal. There’s a lot of piano or organ work, clean (but not acoustic) guitars, flute, even violin. The Metal is sequestered—even when the guitars get a bit heavier on "Blæster“ it still seems to me like the music, on the anatomical level, is closer to a Folk-Jazz hybrid. The group manages to create some absolutely astounding soundscapes outside of Metal, such as the utterly forlorn "Byttingen“ or the mischevious sunrise of "Dunker.“
There are a few tracks that do bring the Metal in spades. There’s the Doomy, intimidating "Åsgårdsreia“ moping around, while "Trolltind“ contains some absolutely brilliant heavy parts to contrast with an easy-going trumpet part. Then there’s "Nøkken“ and "Perpålsa.“ Those two songs are in a class by themselves, absolutely dominating the album. "Nøkken“ is the splending opener, where an ecstatic violin meets with rollicking heavy guitars and Stine-Mari Langstrand’s angellic voice to take you to some impossibly beautiful fjord and make you release all your cares and all your worries and just relax. The duet between Langstrand and the violin should be cheesy, but here it’s so frank and earnest you have to admire it. There’s life and you just can’t help be affected. "Perpålsa“ isn’t quite on the opposite end of the spectrum, but it’s still a departure; heavy guitars, a stomping drum beat, and Steinar Årdal’s powerful bass-baritone takes you tramping through a spruce forest by moonlight, methodically stalking with the rest of the trolls. There’s so much power here, it’s practically primordial.
I should admit something—when I went back to listen to this album for this review I realized there was more Metal than I previously noticed. "Nøkken“ and "Perpålsa“ alone make this album a mandatory purchase for Folk Metal fans, while "Åsgårdsreia“ and moments in "Trolltind“ will keep a more traditional Metal fan happy. People with low non-Metal tolerance should be careful, but there is just so much good in concentrated bits I don’t care that "Allvis“ and "Dunker“ cover too much of the same ground. You won’t be disappointed with "Troll.“
(Online January 19, 2007)