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Monger Heritage - 69%

marktheviktor, January 1st, 2009

I had been wanting to pick this album up ever since it came out in 2006 but it wasn't until very recently that I finally got around to getting it. Jotunspor is a side project of Gorgoroth's King ov Hell and Kvitrafn. This is solid black metal but it does feel like a side-project. I thought this would be more folk-ier but aside from the fact that the lyrics are sung in Old Norse, there wasn't much of that. There is actually more of a faint industrial tone to Gleipnirs Smeder. This actually sounds closer to Krieg than to Gorgoroth if you can believe that.

The title song starts out with a pretty dark blasting underneath what sounds to be a synthesized bass. The drum hits crackle with an effect that gives it a nocturnal depth. King's vocals howl in the background in typical black metal style. He does some Ihsahn-like clean chanting at the end while the main riff drains on. It's a passable if not altogether memorable track. The bulk of Svartalvheims Djup is an ambient piece that contains far off dungeon sound. The great thing about black metal is that if you like particular aspects of songs and want more of the same, then there is no shortage for more. Svartalvheims Djup feels like just that. The third song is Solarjuven and I can’t say I liked this one too much. It’s a bit more melodic than the others. The heavy tribal type beats were ok but this song sounded perfunctory in this Pagan procession. Freke Han Renn is an improvement though. All sorts of deep and menacing layers are thrown into this one. There is even some guttural growls heard melting into the chaos of drums and mid paced power chords. The drumming ratchets up to blast beats once it closes out.

Gleipnirs Smeder suffers a bit from fits and starts even though the overall atmosphere remains coherent. There is passion and hate felt throughout with an exuberance that is akin to nature’s wrath in stormy fjord. Sol Mun Svartne is pretty intense with blast beats being thrown down like a murderous firestorm. It’s pretty cool but it wasn’t anything I didn’t expect. This is tumultuous stuff and it shakes the bedrock right under you but like an earthquake, you know it will just pass and you’ll be done with it. This is so far the only album that Jotunspor has put out. I don’t know if they’ll continue with this project or not but while it didn’t completely disappoint, I feel as though it was just what I expected it would be-to a fault. I love Norse history and I love that King wrote this entirely in Norrønt Språk. I purchased this album on iTunes and despite not being in English at all, the explicit warning was attached to the songs. That’s probably the greatest compliment that can be paid to such a band: A sound so fierce that that it MUST be explicit!

Interesting industrial influences, but uneven - 65%

drengskap, May 3rd, 2007

Jotunspor are a Norwegian duo consisting of King (ex-Gorgoroth, Sahg) and Kvitrafn (ex-Gorgoroth, ex-Sahg, Sigfader), and their debut album Gleipnirs Smeder (‘Gleipnir’s Smiths’) is the first release on Satanas Rex, the black metal imprint of cult English industrial and dark ambient label Cold Spring Records, attesting to the considerable amount of collaboration and cultural cross-pollination occurring between the black metal and industrial scenes these days. Jotunspor declare their music to be ‘Black Metal In Honor Of Nordic Heritage’. Gleipnirs Smeder’s seven tracks extend over 35 minutes, and the cover art on the digipack sleeve is a tastefully rendered silhouette of a loping wolf in deep earth browns.


The album begins with the title track, where powerfully doomy riffs lead into a chorus of lupine howls. The second track, ‘Svartalvheims Djup’ is a lengthy (seven minutes) dark ambient piece consisting of a subdued beat, subterranean sploshing sounds and sinister whispers and groans, which seems pretty misplaced so early on in the album. This would have been better left to the end. As it is, the album just loses momentum. ‘Solartjuven’ beings with jangly, discordant guitars displaying the post-punk influence of 80s bands like Killing Joke and Swans. The slow pace and the riff of ‘Solartjuven’ also put me in mind of Slayer’s ‘South Of Heaven’. ‘Freke Han Renn...’ is another slower-paced song, again with a Slayer / Metallica-style thrash riff emerging around the 2’20” mark. ‘Sol Mun Svartné’ is faster and blastbeat-propelled, with clean choral vocals blending nicely with Kvitrafn’s harsh growls. This song leads abruptly into ‘Ginnungagalder’ which maintains the same tempo – in fact, blink and you’ll miss the transition. Wouldn’t it have been a better idea to mix up the slower and faster songs rather than clumping them like this? The final track 'Ildkrig' verges on martial industrial territory, combining military snare beats with battlefield atmospherics.


It’s good that Jotunspor are interested in pushing the black metal envelope and incorporating industrial, ambient and even retro 80s influences, and from this point of view Satanas Rex does seem to be a natural choice of label for them, but I’m not convinced they’ve got the balance of elements quite right here. Gliepnirs Smeder is OK, but not brilliant, and I haven’t gone back to it many times in the months since I first acquired it.

The forgers of death-ambient black metal - 88%

Bertilak, January 25th, 2007

Establishing a new project that can exist on its own terms away from the overbearing shadow of a more famous progenitor can be a daunting undertaking and ‘Gleipnirs Smeder’ is an album that attempts a twofold birth. Jotunspor is the band established by King and Kvitrafn after each left the black metal behemoth that is Gorgoroth, and ‘Gleipnirs Smeder’ is also the debut release for Satanas Rex, the black metal sub-label created by Justin Mitchell, owner of the industrial powerhouse that is Cold Spring Records. No pressure then…

However, the album delivers on all fronts, representing a stylishly designed and packaged release from the new label, and a thematically focused and musically powerful work from the new band.

King and Kvitrafn dedicate the album to their Nordic heritage and the concept behind it is clearly rooted in the ancient Norse traditions. The title roughly translates into modern English as ‘The Forgers of Gleipnir’. In Norse mythology, Gleipnir was the magical ribbon-thin chain that holds tighter the stronger it is pulled. It is used to bind the wolf Fenrir, an animal so large and strong that he is prophesied to bring about the end of the gods. Gleipnir is destined to remain fast until Ragnarok, when its binding force will break and Fenrir will kill Odin before himself being slain by Odin’s son Vidar. Gleipnir was created by the dwarfs, who presumably are the “smeder” of the title.

These myths permeate the presentation and content of the album, from the shadowy picture of the wolf on the cover to the distant, mournful howling that features on a number of the songs (most notably the title track and ‘Solartjuven’), the anguished sound of Fenrir struggling to free himself. Another prevalent element that links tracks across the record is dissonant metal clashing and hammering noises, counterpointing the more conventional drumming and presumably indicating the forging of Gleipnir itself. The sense of ancient mythology is further intensified by the fact that many of the lyrics are sung in Old Norse, alongside more modern Norwegian.

All this intellectual and thematic underpinning would count for nothing if the music didn’t deliver but Jotunspor undoubtedly has the brawn to back up the brains.

‘Gleipnirs Smeder’ begins with the title track. The opening moments are relatively quiet, with just muted clashes of iron, before the riff kicks in at full speed. And, courtesy of the clear, attacking production, it is LOUD. Immediately there is plenty of distortion, with processed, multi-layered growling vocals and feedback on the guitars, but it is all tightly controlled. The riff itself is simple yet encompasses intricate flourishes and variations within its essential repetition. There is a false ending mid-way through before the track starts off again as fast as at the start, although in this section the vocals are clean and in an almost chanting style, sharply contrasting with the initial section. It all ends as abruptly as it began, the sudden rush of silence from the speakers almost sucking the air out of the room.

The fast black metal of ‘Gleipnirs Smeder’ might be anticipated but ‘Solartjuven’ illustrates that Jotunspor can be as heavy at a slower pace, as the track is a solemn march, driven along by a satisfyingly full bass sound until a distorted thunderstorm begins to cut across its latter stages and eventually drowns it out altogether. The speed picks up again for ‘Freke Han Renn…’, with exceptionally fast drumming and extremely distorted vocals, which contrast well with a beautifully chiming guitar tone on the main riff.

Up until this point the album has maintained a dazzling level of quality but there is then perhaps a slight loss of impetus, as both ‘Sol Mun Svartne’ and ‘Ginnungagalder’ are fast and rather indistinguishable, although the latter track does resolve itself into a pleasingly hypnotic guitar riff before fading out. ‘Sol Mun Svartne’ again partly uses clean vocals but the contrast is not quite as effective as on the opening song.

The album closes with ‘Ildkrig’, which starts with an almost tribal drumbeat but fortunately then stirs into a more militaristic march. Both the bass and guitar are quite low in the mix, providing more of a rumbling buzz than anything distinct, thereby foregrounding the urgent drums and harsh vocals.

One of the great strengths of ‘Gleipnirs Smeder’ is its willingness to push the boundaries of what the listener may be expecting. As well as providing classically primitive black metal as required, Jotunspor also display an industrial streak more akin to a Cold Spring act. As noted, heavy processing features throughout, not only of vocals but also of the effects, such as the thunderstorm that closes ‘Solartjuven’, giving it a truly nightmarish and foreboding quality. Most notable in this context is the second track - ‘Svartalvheims Djup’ - over 7 minutes of minimalist eerie echoes, deep throbbing sounds and dank dripping effects, with snatches of distorted vocals surging in and out. Pastoral ambient passages in the vein of Burzum or Vinterriket are familiar elements in many black metal records, especially those from pagan acts. However, with this track, Jotunspor provide a far more dark and industrial variety of ambient than the keyboards and synths of most bands, reminiscent of the Swedish masters of the genre such as MZ412 or even the visceral ‘death ambient’ style of Megaptera. The effect is not conducive to reflection or melancholy but rather a distinct sense of unease and anxiety. Placing such a radical track second on the album, rather than as an afterthought to pad it out at the end, clearly indicates Jotunspor’s intent to challenge the listener and the fact that it succeeds so well, especially after the all-out black metal assault of the opener, is testament to their skill in this tricky area of atmospheric music. Indeed, their commitment to industrial sounds is reinforced at the close of the album, as the final minutes of ‘Ildkrig’ are also death ambient noises, gradually fading away.

Perhaps less entirely convincing is the mix of clean vocals alongside the more conventional guttural and distorted growls, like shafts of light amidst the surrounding gloom. Although the contrast is fitfully effective and in places, as on the title track, provides an almost choral quality, they do occasionally sound as if they have been mixed in from another album entirely. ‘Gleipnirs Smeder’ sticks in the mind as an evocation of the mythologically inhuman, and clean vocals don’t quite fit this sense of the otherworldly.

Overall, though, any flaws in the album are minor and do not detract from what is a powerful work of atmospheric black metal, with a strong sense of preserving and enriching Nordic heritage. The production, by Kvitrafn, is clear and full, balancing the multiple layers of music and effects with great assurance. Jotunspor is declared to be a studio-only band and while that may deprive the world of witnessing their brand of industrial ambient/black metal in the raw, it will hopefully focus their efforts on producing more albums as rich in ideas and accomplished in execution as this one.

Solid album, but not perfect - 79%

Kriger_Blad, June 29th, 2006

I’m a huge Gorgoroth fan. As a result, I wanted to see with what else the band members were involved. I’ve always been a fan of Kvitrafn, so naturally I looked in his direction and found Jotunspor. I managed to get a hold of this album and immediately began listening.
I must say, that while I enjoy it very much, it sounds an awful lot like Gorgoroth. It just sounded like I had heard it before, just in a different way.
The album as a whole feels very dark and cold. It’s not nearly as raw as say, early Nargaroth, Darkthrone, or Mayhem. It’s more like an early Dimmu Borgir, but with a darker atmosphere. It’s only 7 tracks and little over 35 minutes in length, so that’s quite a drawback. It’s a lot like Gorgoroth in that respect as well.
Gleipnirs Smeder - A good track, but a bit repetitive at times...more than once. The riffs are simple but very full. The drumming remains constant throughout the majority of the song, until about 4:27 or so when everything almost stops for a few seconds. Shortly after, we get to hear some clean vocals. I happened to like them, and I thought it fit well with the rest of the music at that point. 7,5/10
Svartalvheims Djup – One of the low points of this album was this track. The band appeared to be trying to sound evil and it seems as though they thought, “Hey, let’s put in a 7 minute interlude as the second track. What a great idea!” Well, it wasn’t a great idea. I just got done listening to the previous track, I’m pretty pumped up and ready for some more…but no. I get this. I get 7 minutes of random noises and very distorted vocals strewn about like some dead relative’s ashes. It’s kind of a waste of time, but what it lacks in musical value, it makes up for in overall creepiness. 6/10
Solartjuven – A great slow track. It’s very dark and creepy. The opening riffs are, as you may have guessed, repeated a few too many times. Also, throughout the song, they are still pretty simplistic. The vocals are clearly distorted, but quite frankly, scare the hell out of me. The drumming is also very simple and slow, but appropriate for the song. Aside from the very out-of-place bell-type sound, it’s a good track. 8,5
Freke Han Renn… - It’s in this song specifically that we hear the clear Gorgoroth influence. Some parts of the song sound like something that should have been on Incipit Satan. This song begins very fast and features some fine blast beats, but slows down a bit to a medium tempo almost immediately. The vocals are very harsh and don’t sound nearly as distorted as they do in the previous track. The guitars are more complex and very interesting in this song and vary quite a bit throughout. The drumming also varies and accentuates the rhythm of the song. 8/10
Sol Mun Svartne – This one begins fast with blast beats and awkward, almost uncomfortable-sounding riffs. After a few seconds, it kicks in with quite enjoyable riffs and very fast drumming. About half-way through the song we get to hear more clean vocals, which are awesome in my opinion. It’s the shortest track on the album, but the best. Nothing wrong with this song. 10/10
Ginnungagalder – This song starts out very hard and fast. The drums are amazingly quick and the guitars are very eerie. More of the other band influences here with the guitars. The vocals in this track sound especially menacing and powerful. The guitar repeat themselves a lot again and are somewhat simple, but very interesting. 8/10
Ildkrig – This one begins with what sound like war drums and breaks into almost drone-sounding guitars and a military drum line. It’s got a medium tempo throughout, and features harsh vocals with some keyboarding effects as well. There’s a sort of outro at the end of the song that allows us to think about what we’ve just heard. Good track. 7,5/10
One thing I like about this band is that they know how to keep the atmosphere the same. Overall, this was a dark and moving album about the Nordic heritage. Naturally I couldn’t understand any of it, but that’s part of the beauty of the music. The only thing wrong with this album is that it’s repetitive at times…and I wasn’t too crazy about the second track either.
Standout tracks: Sol Mun Svartne, Gleipnirs Smeder, Solartjuven