The Swedish Folk/Viking Metal band GRIMNER released their first EP in 2010, called “A Call For Battle”. Already then I was very impressed and only once have an unsigned band ended up higher on my top 20 of the year list than GRIMNER did in 2010. Much has happened since then. GRIMNER have developed their sound in several ways and even though it is plain that it is the same band that I am listening to now, in 2012, “Färd” is a large step forward in many ways.
If the first demo reminded me most of early THYRFING, “Färd” is closer to the style of Folk Metal that is based on Traditional Metal with a touch of Melodeath. The sound is cleaner overall and the folk parts are often energetic and jolly rather than melancholy. Furthermore, the sound has become much more organic, through the use of several authentic folk instruments, while the first release relied almost exclusively on keyboard for the Folk parts. The keyboard still plays an important part, but together with the other instruments, it sounds less artificial.
The first four songs seem mainly influenced by Scandinavian and Western European Folk music, which is nicely blended with Metal. Flute and accordion play important parts and often serve as the most important lead instrument. The guitars give depth and drive forward but occasionally also contribute with lead melodies. The bass and drums have a very nice, deep sound to them and provide a thumping fundament to build the songs on. John Egnell’s Death growls are the lead vocals on the album. They work well together with the music as they are satisfyingly raspy and deep. Sometimes I think that the growls are placed too low in the mix and sometimes I think that he should articulate more clearly, as the vocals would become more nuanced, but as a whole it works well. On a few occasions, notably in the choruses of the title track and “Völvans Spådom”, clean backing vocals are used and they work extremely well together with the growls, creating very interesting contrasts. The last three songs have much more of a Finnish folk vibe to them. Humppa rhythms and the melodies of KORPIKLAANI and FINNTROLL come to mind. Some of these melodies are really good, but on the whole, I think the band is better at incorporating the Scandinavian influences than the Finnish into the sound.
On a whole, I would say that GRIMNER now have more influences from FINNTROLL, ENSIFERUM and EQUILIBRIUM, while they sound less like THYRFING and AMON AMARTH than before. This description may sound like a major step in a Symphonic direction, judging by the later works of these bands, but the similarities lie more in the melodies and how they are incorporated into the sound. Even though I don’t think that a more jolly and melodic style is necessarily better for all bands, it has definitely given GRIMNER’s music another dimension. Besides, it has not led to any lack of intensity or Metal attitude in the material. The clean vocals in the choruses are great additions and the title track “Färd” is without doubt the best song the band has written thus far. It will surely rank high among all Folk Metal songs I will hear this year, as it is a real smash hit. “Forna Dagar”, the intro “Vargamarsch” and “Völvans Spådom” are also really good and will be given many spins. Sometimes, the Folk instruments can become a little too dominant for my taste and there are a few sections, especially on “Bärsärkaraseri” that can get a little monotonous. These are however minor things to improve for this promising band.
I said it already in my review of “A Call For Battle” and I will say it again: this band deserves to be signed! This self-released album shows both an ability to develop and a great melodic creativity. That is why I give it the highest grade I have ever given to a self-release. Those interested in energetic, melodic and powerful Folk/Viking Metal should definitely check out “Färd”, because for that audience, this will surely be one of the best releases in 2012.
(Online April 22, 2012)