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A Steady Improvement. - 85%

Perplexed_Sjel, March 8th, 2010

I have been quietly anticipating the release of Galar’s sophomore, entitled ‘Til Alle Heimsens Endar’ ever since I heard of its existence. Although Norway will probably always be remembered for their embrace of black metal, there is a small contingent which continues to play the Viking style despite the increased popularity and presence of the former genre within the country. Ever since bands like Enslaved began spreading their message across Scandinavia, and then the world, I have been intrigued with this unusual blend of music, particularly in Galar’s take on it with their expressive bass, infectious melodies and wonderful juxtaposed vocals themes (clean and harsh styles were used frequently throughout the debut). I didn’t consider the debut to be perfection as the production could have used some work and the style needed to be drawn together more tightly within the occasionally sloppy feel of the production which resonated a lukewarm feeling in me. Although there were a few areas that needed improvement, I could surmise that the debut was, in general, a successful and experimental number which would lead excitingly onto the sophomore.

The debut exhibited an odd mixture of material with songs like the all instrumental affair ‘Skumring’, which consisted of folksy instrumentation to songs like the title track, ‘Skogskvad’, a song which really hit home with the infectious and melodious feel of the content, particularly shown well in the guitars. The introductory instrumental to the sophomore starts off in a manner similar to ‘Skumring’, so not much can be assessed in regards to the development of the bands sound. A clean, soothing instrumental with a soft string section proceeds and as it closes, Galar waste no time in drawing out a feeling of familiarity in the listener, along with a hint of nostalgia as ‘Ván’ gatecrashes the timid beginning to this story. Although the initial feeling is one of familiarity, since not much seems to have changed and enough time hasn’t passed for the listener to gauge whether there are any notable differences between this record and the debut, there are indeed a few noteworthy changes from the debut which have overseen a slight improvement, in general, of the sound of Galar, though there are also a number of aspects which have remained exactly the same as previous.

The best bits of the debut have been included here, once again, and are greeted without much fuss, or surprise as I generally expected Galar to implement the strong points on this sophomore, whilst working at the few minor problems they ran into on the debut. As one can tell even after the first full song, the production has altered. It isn’t as sloppy, or amateurish as it previously was, when analysed in hindsight. There was a restrictive quality to the production before which couldn’t appear to be able to handle the extreme nature of Galar’s sound. The Norwegian duo like to express a heavily melodic feel throughout the duration of both of their records and the production needs to be able to handle the mounting pressure of the mellifluous sections, as shown wonderfully on songs like ‘Paa Frossen Mark’, which highlights all the best qualities of Galar in a short period of time, perhaps rather overwhelming so. However, with this sophomore being better produced and the running of a tighter ship in general, Galar have a much healthier basis to work their material from.

The record drifts from a heavier to lighter sound often, with songs like ‘Grámr’ showcasing this well with tremolo bass lines and fast, repetitious drumming. The airer passages generally contain more inventive instruments, like the keyboards, or the bassoon. With this is mine, one can constantly hear the flowing bass, which has a meaningful part to play within both the debut and the sophomore, though with the slightly improved production, the bass tends to sound more professional in this case, again with ‘Paa Frossen Mark’ indicating this generously. As I stated earlier, there haven’t been too many changes to speak of and areas like the vocals factor into this as the harsh vocals sound exactly the same, with a screamed edge to them and the clean vocals are as splendid as ever, especially when applied directly before or after the harsh vocals, offering a different, more flavoursome texture to the atmosphere. A new addition which didn’t feature prominently on the debut is a beautiful section of strings accompanied by the elegant piano and bassoon.

The multi-layered approach offers Galar more in the way of accessible material to a larger audience and is definitely an improvement upon the approach of the debut, which mostly relied on the vocals to input a sense of creativity. Generally speaking, this is an improved offering and certainly feels more mature than the debut which had a rough feel to it. Everything, as well as sounding smoother and more textured, is far more accustomed to the build of structures which includes emotive acoustics on the likes of ‘Grámr’, as well as delightful strings and clean vocals (including the unexpected dual performance with a female vocalist on the aforementioned song - something I wouldn‘t mind hearing more of in the future if Galar decide that is an avenue they wish to explore). My impression is that there has been more emphasis on song writing and musicianship this time round than previous and it has most certainly paid off.