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Monday, July 06, 2009

CD Review: Glittertind - Landkjenning

Glittertind - Landkjenning
2009 Napalm Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Glittertind is the second highest mountain scape in Norway including a glacier nubbed at the peak. Located in the Lom region, Glittertind is named after the river Glitra. Thus by Latin derivation, both are rooted and associated with "glitter," as in sparkling and effervescent.

Torbjorn Sandvik is the driving force behind Glittertind, the Norwegian folk metal entity, who like many of his Viking-enamored peers such as Tyr, utilizes his talents to create stirring metal odes about the Christian cannibalization of the Scandinavian territories in ancient times. As the Vikings are normally portrayed as bloodthirsty war mongers, part of the lore may be true, but Sandvik, his of-late partner in mayhem Geirmund Simonsen and their fellow Viking metallers who can be found lending a hand in Glittertind would like you to know there's a back story.

On Glittertind's third outing Landkjenning Sandvik and company expand upon the former one-man show instigating Evige Asatro and Til Dovre Faller to derive a richer sound to the folk-collision-into-punk modes that is Glittertind.

This time around, Landkjenning does boast some punk riffage but it is decidedly both more metal and more folk-oriented to the point Glittertind now sounds uproariously capricious and downright maudlin in succession. The ode track "Glittertind" is representative of all three facets to Sandvik's thought processes. If you could imagine skaters catapaulting themselves from the thresholds of half-pipes to a stamping punk tempo with heavier tones, fiddling, earthy percussion and Norwegian crooning, you're getting into the nearly-insane spirit of things.

"Varder in Brann" is a hoppity trad tune derived straight from yesteryear complete with spritely reed instruments and the effect will feel as if Viking impersonators have ransacked your regional Renaissance Festival in search of the most expensive brew on the premises. Then again, "Jen Snorer Min Sekk" is a crazy hybrid of streets-meet-forest where Glittertind's punk affinities chaw and snarl ravenously with tin whistles galore. It's not so much the same as what Flogging Molly does since you're talking Scandinavia versus Ireland, but the approach is similar, albeit Flogging Molly (and Korpiklanni, for that matter) moves at a brisker pace.

As the title track opens Landkjenning with a triumphant metallic stride complete with rousing masculine chorals akin to Tyr and "Nordafjells" drops skull-splitting hammers atop the earthbound instrumentalization beneath them in one of Glittertind's heaviest cuts ever, expect the mood to switch later in the album. Almost as a funeral march in sequential order, Glittertind issues an emotional acoustic interlude with "Mot Myrke Vetteren" followed by the gallows-inducing heaviness of "Brede Seil Over Nordsjo Gar" and rounded by a dragged sorrow ushered through the violin and fugue organ whispering through "Overmate Full Av Nade."

It helps if you're deeply familiar with Viking history to fully appreciate what Torbjorn Sandvik (and Bathory before him) is trying to convey. Some may confuse the folk metal and Viking metal genres as directly-associated with black metal due to their recurrent anti-Christian themes, but the direct point to this stuff is the descendents of Scandinavia hold a grudge in honor of their distant ancestors with far more condemnation than the American South. Dragon heads on the prow or stars 'n bars, both were designed in theory to chase off undesired company, which is perhaps why Viking metal has risen in popularity.

Whether they have a right to or not in modern times is the eye of the beholder, yet from a music standpoint, there's no denying bands such as Tyr, Finntroll, Amon Amarth, Korpiklanni, Eluveitie and Glittertind are all entertaining as hell. Landkjenning well stands up to its class of Drekar longship-daydreamt adventurees and if you can decipher the native tongue, it will present an alternate chronology motivating a somewhat-misunderstood race of raiders. Right or wrong in their savagery, you have to admit the Vikings are the best thing to happen to metal since the English knights.

Rating: ****

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