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Hardingrock > Grimen > Reviews
Hardingrock - Grimen

Takk!!! - 87%

pandaemon, November 18th, 2009

Et lite, men utsøkt selskap, sa mannen, han drakk alene! "A small, but excellent party, the man said, he was drinking alone" says the proverb. The party has common points with this album: very unknown and underrated.

Ihsahn has done it again. This time he teamed up with his wife, Ihriel (Peccatum, StarofAsh) and the fiddler named Knut Buen. The name of the band is inspired by the Norwegian national instrument, the Harding fiddle. Some people probably expected some straightforward folk metal, but it's very experimental just like Ihsahn's solo albums or the work from Peccatum. The melodies aren't Korpiklaani-happy music, neither depressive - "Mature" would be the perfect word. It could also be used in describing the manner all of the instruments were played. The vocals are amazing and there sure are a lot of them (you will see bellow). The lyrics are based on the mythical tradition from their country and all are written in Norwegian.

The album could be divided in two parts:
1) The folk metal one
2) The very relaxing non-metal-rock one

The first contains 3 relatively dynamic and melodic folk metal songs, all of them being very similar, the fiddle and the distorted guitar almost permanently having a "duel". "Fanitullen" has only clean Ihsahn vocals and a scream. "Faens Marsj" is in the same vain, but only consists of shrieks. "Fossegrimen" has a variety of vocals: a duo of clean Ihriel vocals and Ihsahn shrieks and spoken words. The keyboard is present only in the last two songs and is a rare but pleasant appearance.

The second one is made of beautiful and simple music (clean vocals, spoken words, keyboards and the dominating fiddle). Some songs could be considered interludes as they contain very few music (almost omnipresent fiddle of course): "Margit Hjukse", "Grimen". "Huldreslåtten (Bygdatråen)" is a postlude. If you have listened to the soundtrack made by Starofash for ulterior, you know what to expect from the soothing music of the rest of the tracks. The "keyboard + electronic background music" song "Nykken" contains a nice beat that sounds like a horse moving slowly, unlike the rest of the album that contains quality but unspectacular drumming. "Den Bergtekne" and "Fean På Bordstabelen" have some mellow guitar work, but the music is still as atmospheric and they are much too sporadic to make the songs considered rock or metal.

The title is "thanks" in Norwegian by the way. If you like Skyclad or Eluveitie, i think you will like this album. I certainly do! All praise for the trio!


GuntherTheUndying, December 23rd, 2007

How would you react if Ihsahn, his wife, and a legendary folk musician decided to join forces in one screwy fiddle-laden rock group? Whether you’d be happy or pissed, such a union did happen with Emperor’s vocalist, Starofash (Ms. Ihsahn), and Knut Buen when the threesome decided to combine their multiple musical professions into one solid entity: Hardingrock. As clueless freshman welcome their new roommates into a single dorm, Norway’s spunky squad openly accepts unlimited fiddle licks and groovy hard rock feels with their long-awaiting debut entitled “Grimen.” Combining such a diversified roster of musicians would seem rather tricky, but Hardingrock prevails with this intelligent nugget of folk rock that’ll turn heads and spark good times.

Many individuals seem to be under the impression that Hardingrock is an ultra-heavy folk band, yet that's quite far away from this project's actual sound. Instead, the riffs resemble a strict Deep Purple-like riffing structure without any soloing at all; it’s the fiddle that does that. Ihsahn’s percussion is quite typical as he only follows certain drum patterns you’d find on any hard rock record without crossing any energetic barriers, and that’s really all to expect: rolling rock ‘n’ roll that’s addictive as meth. Of course, it’s somewhat cool swallowing a dose of nifty Rainbow worship, but “Grimen” won’t be some perfection-flirting idol; it’s just decent musicianship throughout.

Vocally, everything from narration to Ihsahn's blackened shrieks is found quite often, which isn't a shabby addition to "Grimen," although a constant dose of the same singing design can be somewhat aggravating if used again and again. On the topic of negatives, only one real problem is found in Hardingrock's debut: Starofash. Ihsahn's wife specializes in operatic harps, yet only on rare instances is her presence even detected; almost like she's posing as a guest rather than a real member. It's actually very weird to see her fenced in like so; she really has a wonderful voice, and I'm baffled by such entrapment on Hardingrock's behalf.

Although Ihsahn provides decent instrumentation, Norway's diverse trio centers their blueprints around one thing and one thing only: Buen's fiddle. From start to finish, the fiddle strides throughout every musical note with great connections to the surrounding musical structure. In fact, there are a few ambient-like tracks that show only vocals (usually narrative) and an underlying folk-like vibe, which provides substantial evidence of how often the fiddle is applied. However, too much of a good thing can occasionally be bad, and you'll probably feel rather annoyed after hearing fiddle layered upon more fiddle; not quite a serious issue, but sometimes a nuisance. Despite that, you'll be clicking your heels to traditional folk rock/metal done right!

“Grimen” firmly protects its vast backgrounds under the same roof from offensive situations, and after getting cozy, Hardingrock’s influences make one killer offspring of folk madness; it has many distinctive genes gracefully clashing in a single body without any defects. Although occasionally flawed, Hardingrock nicely pulls off this multi-cultural release by balancing certain sounds without allowing one more territory than the other, which really shows how well Ihsahn, Buen, and Starofash work together. Fans of folk music will certainly connect with “Grimen” on many interpersonal levels, yet others that are uncertain should carefully poke it repeatedly before deciding to proceed or retreat.