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To qualify Lönndom's sophomore effort Viddernas tolv kapitel as merely ' mood music' would seem an understatement, for its appeal is restricted not only by its dark, emotional range, but also the psychological geography mapped out by its dreary, rustic arrangements. Members A. Petterson and S. Sandström (aka Graav) have distanced themselves not only from their black metallic alma mater Armagedda, or Sandström's great occult rock outfit LIK, but even from the debut of this very project, Fälen Från Norr, which had been molded in more of a black folk/doom environment. The desolate and nature-infused lyrical aesthetic has been retained, but this album is one of stripped down, brooding folk elements delivered through an extremely limited instrumental palette.
Fortunately, that is all Lönndom requires to create a dour, haunting and often hypnotic experience here. Their chosen implements of escapism: beautiful acoustic guitars, deep Swedish vocal harmonies and samples of winds and wilderness layered in to provide the feeling that you are truly outside listening to this. A bloody hour of this, with very little variation in theme or execution, but nonetheless it sinks its hooks into you by the second track "I vattnets flöde" and never really lets go. While it would be difficult to appraise the guitar patterns as unique for anyone into the darker side of folk, they are methodical in that they capture a rural, early 20th century flair that pairs well with the lower range of the vocals. Both members play, both members sing, and you can just imagine the duo wandering the lakeside and landscape of the cover image while they composed the 12 tracks and 60 minutes of pure, rhythmic meditation. Individual tracks vary in structure to the extend that the longer pieces like "Vindaflykt", at over 9 minutes, has more room to breathe and experiment with purely guitar sequences, but the tools of the trade never change: don't expect a symphony to burst forth, or a black metal riff to somewhere erupt, but you might be entreated to the sounds of birds chirping from the distant woodland eaves.
Like anything with the lyrics and vocals in Swedish, my oafish understanding is limited to only those words I've found familiar from other song titles, so naturally this created a bit of an obstacle in my ability to fully explore the album's subject matter, but would not prove the case for native speakers. Regardless, Viddernas tolv kapitel is effective enough that it transcends the linguistic barrier with its unmistakable atmosphere, a music of sadness and back roads and lost times and reflection. It's also just about as honest and 'minimalist' as one will find in the spectrum. The dry tones of the vocals and the plucking of the strings are sauteed in zero studio gimmickry, and aside from an obvious, fundamental appreciation of classical and folk guitar, there is zero technicality. The 'riffs' manifest one at a time, with minor variance between the two guitars. Favorites included "Höstdagar" with its vocal and sampled-shore swells alongside the mesmeric, melodic picking pattern, and "Skaldekonst om ljusets återkomst" which includes a rare percussive element (tambourine?), but all told this is a compelling, if conditional experience for one willing to put him or herself in the proper perspective for its consumption. I recommend late autumn or early winter, on a rustic stroll or in a cabin far from the world. The more Walden Pond, the better.
The musical paths of Lönndom’s members have gone through various phases, crossing black metal (Armagedda), simplier rock (LIK), and folk metal with Lönndom. Last year Lönndom unleashed Viddernas Tolv Kapitel, a pure folk album consisting of nothing but acoustic guitars and clean singing. While black metal related bands can do acoustic albums outstandingly (think of Drudkh’s 2006 effort), I am not so sure about Viddernas Tolv Kapitel.
Atmospherically, everything is in its right place here, sounding all natural and woody. This is a proper dive into autumnal melancholy and beauty. But the problem here is that none of the compositions really stand out in any way - surely there are various good melody patterns (e.g. ”En vår är kommen”) but otherwise this one hour monster is in stagnation. And here comes my oh so common rant: one hour is a too long playing time for simple acoustic strummings with almost zero variation. Vocals are masculine and chant-like, there’s definitely emotion in them; but on the other hand I feel that they don’t always properly fit to the actual music. Some compositions I would have enjoyed much more if they were solely instrumental.
Viddernas Tolv Kapitel is surely crafted carefully and most definitely has its fans, but personally I find it somewhat uninviting. If or when I am to pick an acoustic album to enjoy on a quiet day with a cup of tea, it would be some other than Viddernas Tolv Kapitel. I still believe, however, than Lönndom are able to surprise, knowing the members’ history of shifting musical styles, so perhaps their next album will surprise me more positively.
2 / 5
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I’ve listened to this album so many times now it’s almost ridiculous. It’s been spinning over and over again for a while, and I can’t seem to get enough of it. Viddernas tolv kapitel is Lönndom’s first entirely acoustic album (I think), and is far away from the black metal of the two guys’ other band Armagedda. It’s an album that perfectly captures the essence of nature, and in many ways serves as a tribute to nature. But it’s also an album filled to the rim with gloom and melancholy.
The warm and deep voices will both entrance and mesmerize you. The two guitars bring forth simple and highly effective melodies, often with a mournful tone of utter despair. It’s quite impressive how they manage to evoke such strong emotions with so little. In my opinion this is an hour of pure musical bliss. It’s without a doubt one of the best folk-related albums I’ve ever heard, by far surpassing other bands’ (Månegarm, Drudkh, Hel) folk releases. Lönndom manage to perform folk music that is so drenched with a sombre feeling of utter hopelessness, extremely atmospheric and encompassing.
Lending notes from both classic Swedish folk music and the nowadays neo-folk scene they create a sound I haven’t found in folk music before. At times the vocals chant in a way that’s reminiscent of Native American ceremonies, or that of a shaman trying to please the weather gods. Their voices can be filled with such agony just as a deep humming will make you feel safe from any harm. The atmosphere is so invoking it’s incredible, and throughout the album I go through so many different emotional aspects it’s exhausting. Dread, joy, sorrow, grief, melancholy… it’s all there. Much is thanks to the interaction between both vocals, much is thanks to the interaction between both guitars, and the interaction in between vocals and guitars. It’s done in a very pleasant and skillful manner.
Even if you don’t understand the lyrics I think this album has a lot to offer to the listener. Samples of wind blowing and owls hooting are used very tastefully, and gives me the feeling of being surrounded by nothing but trees, sitting just the three of us (me and the two Lönndom fellows) in front of a fire in the woods. The guitar play is beautiful all the way through, the production is so clear the guitars come off warm and live, and both voices also benefit greatly from the fantastic sound quality, really giving note to the depths of their voices. Slow and extremely melancholic, encompassing and utterly powerful. I honestly have extreme difficulties trying to put into words the range of emotions and thoughts I have about this album, and to even try to describe the sound of it feels ridiculous; I’d never be able to do it justice. Lönndom manage to do what so many black metal acts have failed to do; evoking a genuine sense of nature. Just perfect and in my opinion a masterpiece.
Originally written for My Last Chapter
Lönndom’s “Viddernas Tolv Kapitel” is very much in the spirit of Ulver’s “Kveldssanger” or Wardruna’s “Runaljod.” That’s certainly impressive company to have, and Lönndom deserve the comparison in every way. It should be no surprise then that what the band has produced is not, in fact, metal at all, but spiritualistic folk with only the bare minimum of instrumentation. The album’s aims are entirely atmospheric, as “Viddernas Tolv Kapitel” works to captivate the listener with chants, natural sounds, and acoustic passages. That being said, if you don’t like folk you will not like “Viddernas Tolv Kapitel.” But, then again, if you absolutely hate “Viddernas Tolv Kapitel” there might be something wrong with you. A metal fan might find it boring, but at least it’s inoffensive.
With five tracks that go beyond the five-minute mark, Lönndom are really demanding a lot from their listeners, particularly considering how minimalistic their approach is. Nine-minute-long songs like “Vindaflykt” are hard to tackle for any genre, especially folk, which by nature usually resorts to repetitive song structures to maintain direction. Lönndom, on the other hand, don’t go the way of campfire refrains and choruses but, instead, keep the acoustic guitars slow and sweeping, with the deep vocals adding sparse chants. In consequence, “Viddernas Tolv Kapitel” straddles the line between keeping the listener’s attention and pioneering new frontier that, while being digressive, contributes to the album’s mysticism. So what exactly do Lönndom do to keep the listener from falling asleep?
The opening track, “Välkommen Ut,” won’t have you jumping out of the gate. In the typical style of an intro, it starts with natural ambience, such as the blowing of wind and the sound of chimes, but both are done subtlety and tastefully. Likewise, you may feel underwhelmed when the acoustic guitarist joins to strum some lazy chords and the vocalist lets loose with trance-induced mumbles. But then, when the sound of whistling comes into the mix, it becomes clear that “Viddernas Tolv Kapitel” is about more than vague melancholy. It’s about forgotten spirituality.
Therefore, the album’s mood is such that it must command the listener’s attention in order to be fully appreciated but, in the way of dispassionate folk music, it doesn’t demand the listener’s attention with flashy composition and unnecessary ornaments. However, Lönndom do frequently employ ambient sounds like those of wind, fire, birds, and rain. For the most part, these sounds do not act as filler and exist in the background to add atmospheric flavoring. Rain adds to the pensive tone of “Vindaflykt” and “I Vattnets Flöde,” while fire heightens the mystical tribalism of “Uttorkad Vare Forsen.” All such ambiance is done so subtlety that it doesn’t push the music too far off course and avoids being contrived.
Still, there is a sense that some of the tracks may be a bit too long for such a minimalistic style. For example, the first half of “I Vattnets Flöde” is full of motion with Empyrium-like acoustic passages, but in the second half the song takes to the spacious strumming of chords. Similarly, “Skaldekonst om Ljusets Återkomst” doesn’t pick up until the middle with chants and a percussive beat provided by a tambourine. It doesn’t help that the vocals are incredibly sparse. With their unemotional and low-pitched style, the vocals are perfect for supporting the tribal atmosphere with chants, but unfortunately they are underused. For these reasons, “I Fälens Ände” is arguably the best track on the album. If it isn’t, it’s certainly the most focused. Interestingly, the song starts off like a Scandinavian take on the Wild West. The vocalist chants for almost all of the track’s length, and the shuffling rhythm of the guitars give the music a noticeable beat that is both hypnotic and refreshing.
“Viddernas Tolv Kapitel” is missing an accessible attention-hook, that special something, that is so important for this style of folk. In “Weiland,” Empyrium compensate with full orchestral arrangements, while in “Kveldssanger” Ulver keep the songs short and simple. What Lönndom left out is something so simple that it could easily make this already great release outstanding—namely, percussion. The tambourine section of “Skaldekonst om Ljusets Återkomst” is one of the best moments of the album because it offers a substantial beat and some menacing rattles that lead into foreboding chants. It’s subtle but effective, and Lönndom wouldn’t have needed to add anything explosive—just something to give the acoustic meanderings a heartbeat.
Lönndom’s departure from the expansiveness of “Fälen Från Norr” wasn’t necessarily made for the better, but it does showcase a side of the band that was, until now, unseen. “Fälen Från Norr” stuck to the hypnotic folk-tinged metal formula established during the band’s earlier incarnation, LIK, but “Viddernas Tolv Kapitel” is Lönndom’s successful movement toward new ground. It is a mature album in both spirit and composition, and its minimalism should not be mistaken for laziness. In any case, “Viddernas Tolv Kapitel” requires an attentive listen, if its magic is to work most effectively.
I must admit, I never saw this change in direction. After Lönndom’s full-length debut, ‘Fälen Från Norr’, I had expected the twosome to continue on a path similar to that of their previous band, the highly contagious Lik. Although Lik were evolving into Lönndom and dumbing down the occult black rock style, the two musicians, S. Sandström and A. Petterson, had decided to keep some of the aspects which made Lik what they were. However, this sophomore full-length, entitled ‘Viddernas Tolv Kapitel’, has almost completely stripped out the Lik style, which involved heavily repetitious, entrancing bass, guitars and vocals -- which were a mix between clean and harsh techniques -- the new style has alluded the occult black rock sector of underground music and taken on a much more folksy sound, leaving behind the snappy percussion and biting guitar distortion in favour of acoustics, cleanly sung harmonies and samples of nature, which add a subtle, but glorious touch to the already natural, organic sound of the band, though they are a sparse addition to this album.
Instead of sounding akin to their former acts, which is what I had expected, the musicians have leaned more towards bands like the Chilean doom metal act Uaral (but without the metallic structure), the well known Ulver during their own folksy stage (in particular ‘Kveldssanger’) and bands like Norway’s obscure, but treasured Vàli. Hopefully this gives you, the reader, an idea of how much Lönndom have transformed from their debut. In some ways I would consider this sophomore a much more successful edition to their discography. However, I don’t find this purely folk album as accessible as their previous work, despite the increase in maturity and compositional prowess. Although each song filters into the next and there is much beauty to be found in the atmospherics of this light album, folk without a metallic swing to it isn’t something I can see myself enjoying time and again, over and over, or incessantly. There isn’t a longevity to this style as there was on Lik’s albums. The acoustics, samples of singing birds, or blazing fires on ‘Uttorkad Vare Forsen’ can only do so much before the folk becomes overbearing.
Albums like this only find their way out of the darkness of the cupboard and into the light on cloudy, grey and gloomy days when the raining is trickling down from the sky and nature is in a vengeful mood. Unlike bands like Chile’s Uaral who, whilst maintaining a folk base to their compositions, successfully intertwine a metallic edge giving them more depth and accessibility to someone like myself who craves a mixture of the two -- folk and metal -- whenever he opens up his soul to folk music. Each song, including the impressive ‘Vindaflykt’, which clocks in at 9 minutes long, easily becoming the longest song on the record, do manage to hold my attention through the sheer beauty of the sorrowful acoustics, but the atmosphere is a bit bear without the inclusion of percussion and the infectious riffs these two musicians have become known for in recent years. Their debut needed a sufficient amount of work doing to it to even come close to comparing to that of Lik’s earliest albums, but I’m not entirely convinced that this new image will take them to a more successful route than the one they were previously on.
The one remnant that has remained is the clean vocal style, though the two musicians seem to collaborate more so now than ever before. Their vocal exploits, and particularly that of the main vocalist, are still as entrancing as ever, but without the backing of the previously pivotal guitars, some songs can end up becoming, dare I say it, a bit dull. Take ‘Höstdagar’ for example. The song floats along amicably. It’s “nice”. Samples of waves and, strangely, a hooting owl. Images of the night sky, stretching into the distance with millions of blazing stars come to mind. It’s all very peaceful and the chanted vocals towards the end are exceptionally handled and brought into the atmosphere to give it a bit of pep, but this doesn’t detract from the fact that, although beautiful, a lot of the work seems forgettable. I tend to find most acoustically based music needs something more substantial than just beauty to fall back on and though the vocals are a good addition besides the acoustics, they don’t sweep me off my feet and take me on drug-like trips that the old material once did. Likeable and good to listen to if you’re intent on having a relaxing afternoon, but this album transforms into decent background music after a few songs.