Originally formed in 2001 by Torbjørn Sandvik, Glittertind was originally a one man band. Glittertind's debut album, Evige Asatro, which was released in 2003, was full of traditional folk and Norwegian national songs rewritten in a punky, folk metal style. The band's sophomore album, Landkjenning, continued their punk-inspired folk metal tirade, only with the addition of Geirmund Simonsen helping with instrumentation. No stranger to making fans wait for new albums, the band's third full length album was finally released in 2013, titled Djevelsvart, as a fully-fledged six piece band (with Sandvik and Simonsen still in the lineup).
Pigeonholing an act like Glittertind is a very difficult thing to do. Are they folk metal? Absolutely, as this is definitely metal with folk instrumentation, but it’s a different approach than other folk metal acts. Djevelsvart, at least according to Sandvik, is a darker piece of work than previous outings, and, indeed, there is an air of abject melancholy hanging over the entire production, especially with the acoustic strumming and clear during “Kvilelaus” and the crawling orchestral feel during “Nymaane”. Even though the subject matter is darker and inspired by various traumatic events the album has a more light-hearted approach than most. It could be the punk rock leanings of tracks like “Trollbunden”, which sounds straight out a Poiges album, with quirky piano lines and bouncy bass lines, but, aside from a few moments the punk influence is much more toned down on this album. There are still some punk moments, like the chorus of “Sprekk for sol”, so it hasn’t been completely abandoned. While the music showcases some solid folk instrumentation in the way of flutes, pianos and acoustic guitars, the focus is on flowing songs rather than flashy instrumentation. The focus seems to be on the darkened, organic atmosphere, with the band flowing between the fast paced, punk inspired romp during “Djevelsvart” and the serene quietude of tracks like “Stjerneslor”. I know I’ve been speaking a lot about quiet melancholy and punk-infused folk metal, but there are some downright heavy sections. The title track shows off some heavier riffs, with a bit of trem picking and fast paced drum lines and even goes into a bit of growling with the vocals.
Although the songwriting is carefully and skillfully crafted, Sandvik’s vocals are Glittertind’s strongest point. Tracks like “Kvielelaus” and “Sundriven” showcase Sandvik’s clear, mid-range tone. It really reminds me of a mellower version of Matthias Blad of Falconer, only with Norwegian lyrics instead of Swedish. The delivery is emotive, with tinges of melancholic harmony. Sandvik does get a little awkward with his delivery during the bouncy “Trollbunden”, but the entire band sounds a little strange during that track, so it’s not a huge deal.
Djevelsvart serves as Glittertind’s most mature release to date. It’s less party hardy tavern folk metal and focuses on dark melodies and has a rather haunting atmosphere. The band still kicks things up with heavier tracks, but the focus is on serene quietude, only interspersed with heavier and punk infused tracks. While there are a few small stumbles here and there, Sandvik and crew really have crafted an excellent album that is very difficult to pigeonhole. This could appeal to fans of the folk-driven harmonies of Elvenking, the acoustic interplay of Agalloch and the vocalization of Falconer. Check out with an open mind.
(Online January 15, 2014)