It took a while before I finally checked out the band MÅNEGARM after my friends recommended them to me, but I'm glad I did. Although this is not the first album by them that I heard (that's "Havets Vargar", which I also reviewed), "Nordstjärnans Tidsålder" is the debut recording of the band (not counting the demos) released by Displeased Records.
A fantastic piano/acoustic guitar intro called "I Nordstjärnans Sken" starts off an album that for the rest is mostly fast Black Metal with a lot of folk elements. These not only come from the use of frequent acoustic passages and keyboards, but also the specific Folk rhythms and use of folk instruments. Never before have I heard such perfect integration of extreme music and folk as on "Nordstjärnans Tidsålder". Take for instance "Fädernas Kall (Under Hödja Norbanér)", which not only has Folk rhythms, but also slower, more melodic passages with flutes, atmospheric acoustic passages and also some samples of wind in the sails of a Viking ship.
"Ymer" is a track that also features these female vocals, as well as acoustic guitars and violins, and is actually just Folk (which gives a nice break on the album). On "Den Tödes Drömmer" and a few more tracks there are also violins and female vocals, and there are some clean male vocals on "Nordanblod" as well. The main vocals are high-pitched shrieks, and all lyrics are sung in the Swedish language, and they complete the music in the best way imaginable. Of course the main slice of the music is Black Metal, which is pretty melodic in nature, but over all is high-paced and very diverse. The production is not maybe the strongest point, but I've heard much worse. And who really cares about production when the musical content is this good? The production even gives the music an additional dark vibe, and sometimes the band even reminds of BATHORY (again "Nordanblood", also because of the clean vocals). The variety in musical arrangements, additional instruments and folk elements makes this album incredibly versatile, and a very pleasant listen from the first second till the last. Therefore my check-out tips are: all!
MÅNEGARM is the most underrated of the Swedish Metal bands that I ever heard, and by far the best Folk Black Metal band around. If you talk about massive debuts, then "Nordstjärnans Tidsålder" is a fantastic example! Folk lovers, run to your stores to get this! (Online April 17, 2003)