Hardingrock - Grimen
Nyrenning Forlag
Folk Rock/Metal
10 songs (40'06")
Release year: 2007
Reviewed by Alex
Surprise of the month

It is too bad our review page layout makes it impossible for me to say upfront that Ihsahn (Vegard Sverre Tveitan), formerly of Emperor and many other projects, is involved with Hardingrock. If I could, you would know one inevitable detail right off the bat. Whatever the music Hardingrock plays, quality can be expected.

The answer for the style can be found in the project’s name. Trusted Wikipedia helps to identify hardingfele (or Hardanger fiddle, named after a region in Norway where it was originally created) as a variation of violin very specific not only to Norway, but actually to its southwestern part, where Ihsahn’s hometown Notodden is located. The idea behind Hardingrock was to take authentic Norwegian folk tunes, deconstruct and recreate them using some metal, classical instruments and modern electronica approaches. To garner the project further authenticity Ihsahn convinced famous Norwegian hardingfele player Knut Baen, spotted with a few other Norwegian metal bands, to take up the fiddle and make his contribution heard.

It is absolutely surprising how multifaceted Norwegian folk music can be at the hands of Hardingrock. Crystal clear electronica of Daudingen and Nykken reflects stillness of cold air and serenity of nature in the Scandinavian North. Fanitullen and Faens Marsj are full of bouncy village dance rhythms. Den Bergtekne is dreamy, while Faen på Bordstabelen is almost jovial. Since I still haven’t taken up any Norwegian and translations even for the song titles are not provided, I engaged into playing a mind game trying to guess what each song is supposed to parlay. For example, Nykken, with its light water splashes, grumbling bass, acoustic guitar, piano and prominent hardingfele/harp is an instrumental introducing creature of both nocturnal and aquatic nature. Faen på Bordstabelen, on the other hand, with the fiddle grating around a single riff, and overall buoyant atmosphere sounds like the events are taking place at the local county fair.

Ihsahn is really not concerned with Grimen being metal per se, and folk metal in particular. Instead, he goes with the flow of the original composition, bringing heavy guitar backdrop only when appropriate (Fanitullen, Faens Marsj, Fossegrimen). Hardingfele, on the other hand, is featured notably and deservedly. After many years of Church persecution this instrument must be making a comeback in the hearts of Norwegians, and luckily there are those who carried its traditions through the banned ages. In Knut Baen’s interpretation, hardingfele can either harmonize in true Nordic fashion (Daudingen), latch onto a prominent riff found in Otyg and early Vintersorg (Faens Marsj), wander around in circles (Den Bergtekne), or take the longing, searching, and sad centerstage in the finale Huldreslåtten (Bygdatråen).

Grimen also presents a multitude of vocals. In the absence of detailed liner notes I assume that most male parts are done by Ihsahn himself and range from medicine man-style recitations to Garm-like clean singing (Fanitullen) to some aggressive episodes (Faens Marsj, Fossegrimen). To compliment the male part, Starofash (Ihsahn’s wife Heidi Solberg Tveitan and his former Peccatum partner) contributes female vocals. Not having to push herself, Starofash is excellent in adding her mermaid touch.

Recitations on Grimen are numerous and might ward off some listeners. Not only I do not find these trite, I believe these words are incredibly appropriate and for those few in this world who actually understand Norwegian will be exceptionally meaningful. The only minor complaint may be that because of some songs filled with them entirely, the album runs out of steam in its middle starting with Margit Hjukse and gains back its magic footing only when syncopated progressive Fossegrimen enters.

If the most famous Norwegian composer Edward Grieg was not ashamed to be inspired by native folk music in Peer Gynt, then Ihsahn searching for inspiration there is also commendable. Grimen does wonders introducing the rest of the unsuspecting world to true Norwegian roots. Hardingfele sound is already spreading around these shores with Lord of the Rings using the instrument in its soundtrack and movie Fargo borrowing its main theme played with this special Nordic fiddle to depict its desolate snow covered barren North Dakotan landscapes.

The album has been licensed by Candlelight USA for domestic distribution in the US.

Killing Songs :
Daudingen, I can't stop listening, Fanitullen, Faens Marsj, Nykken
Alex quoted 85 / 100
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