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It seems that the more music I listen to, the more I value surprises. Although Galar is often labelled 'viking metal'- a term that's lost much of its magic in recent years- their second album 'Til Alle Heimsens Endar' represents a more multi-faceted musical experience than I would have expected. Heard here is an interesting collision of melodic black metal (in the style of early Enslaved or Vintersorg) and- wait for it- classical chamber music. On 'Til Alle Heimsens Endar', the band strikes a keen balance between the two styles, merging the two in a memorable and dare I say 'epic' fashion.
As the plain, yet proud clean vocals tend to indicate, Galar is aligning themselves without the realm of viking metal, a style where I've often found musicians and bands using their heritage as an excuse to party and drink. As is done commonly enough, Galar incorporates some of the raspy harshness and timbre of black metal. Musically, Galar's sound is not far removed from the more progressive side of the Viking style, but the melancholic edge of the music never feels like this duo is trying to get a mead kegger fired up. Instead, there is a cinematic edge to the music that I much prefer over the alternative, made all the more vibrant by the lush chamber music orchestrations. Although many listeners will have a good idea of what to expect even if a simple 'viking metal' or 'melodic black metal' label is dropped on it, I was quickly taken by surprise by the other side of this band. Essentially, Galar toss out the guitars and blastbeats for extended passages on 'Til Alle Heimsens Endar', and resort to pianos, violins, and even a bassoon. This is what takes 'Til Alle Heimsens Endar' and pushes it up into the echelon of excellence. Their mellow edge is not folky or even symphonic- both of those would have been easy to predict. The sound here is the sort of music that's most heard in dramatic film scores, and the quality of the chamber arrangements here do not deny the possibility that the music here could indeed beautifully run alongside some tragic film sequence. The surprising excellence of the chamber half is something of a double-edged sword however; while that aspect of their sound is masterful, Galar's black metal side is not nearly as remarkable. Their tasteful balance of cleans and screams is enough for me to set them apart from many black metal acts, but on the second listen and onwards, I often found myself looking forward to the mellow passages more.
A little inconsistent in regards to the way I'm impressed perhaps, but 'Til Alle Heimsens Endar' makes for an intense and dramatic experience. If I were to give Galar any advice for future work, it would be incredible to see them incorporate the chamber style even more into their music, and mesh it in with the metal instead of leaving the two approaches separate. All in all, an excellent and- above all- surprising album from this talented Norwegian duo.