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Yggdrasil - Irrbloss - 75%

Radagast, July 6th, 2011

Things seem to be heating up a little for Yggdrasil, now releasing their 3rd CD in the space of 4 years and the first to feature a fully-rounded line-up that suggests a greater focus on moving forward as a fully-functioning band.

‘Irrbloss’ is the kind of CD you want to hear from a band that you’re a fan of – neither veering off in unexpected directions or stagnating, it carries on their familiar style while at the same time making a few adjustments here and there to ensure there is a freshness to proceedings.

There some more notable uses of traditional instruments in the arrangements, but the most noticeable difference from their previous work is an amping up of flashiness in the performance department – nothing too gaudy, but there is definitely less of a focus on the instruments merely serving the song. 2009’s ‘Vedergällning’ featured only one really prominent instance of lead guitar, something that is exceeded on ‘Irrbloss’ by the end of the first song. New drummer Jacob Blecher seems keen to make an immediate impact too, keeping up the intensity of his predecessors but offering a far more lively presence behind the kit, punctuating his blasting with countless impressive rolls and fills.

What is crucial to this practice of allowing more room for the individual musicians to breathe is that Yggdrasil haven’t lost sight of the core values of their music that made it so enjoyable in the first place. Resolutely an old-school viking/folk metal band, the songs remain aggressive, often meandering and always carrying that majestic aura of grandeur and sorrow. Magnus Wohlfart’s hateful black metal vocals remain right at the forefront, and the maudlin choirs that permeate the CD never feel forced or anything like a shallow attempt at making the music more accessible.

The tweaks to the expected sound come to a head right at the CD’s conclusion, with a final track that comes right out of leftfield. The female vocals that have been part of the backing choirs throughout suddenly take centre stage in an entirely acoustic ballad, something beautiful and fragile compared the viciousness that has preceded it. Scraping violins and a belated appearance from Wohlfart’s resonant clean vocals are all that accompany the song, and the contrast to the multi-layered riffing of the preceding 7 is stark and even a little unsettling.

It probably does fall a little short of ‘Vedergallning’ overall, but ‘Irrbloss’ is another unqualified success for Yggdrasil. Carrying on with little regard for what’s going on around them in the genre they play, they continue to provide music that hits that sweet spot right between elegance and ferocity.

(Originally written for

The logo is new, but the legends are the same - 78%

autothrall, May 3rd, 2011

Yggdrasil's 2009 sophomore Vedergällning was a beast of an effort, trumping their debut and thrusting them to the heights of what the folk metal sphere has to offer a starving audience which so often is forced to settle with sillier bands. Lush, beautiful and fully in tune with its black and Viking metal influences, carefully balancing both its clean and rasped vocals, melodic driving guitars, synthesizers, tight drumming and traditional adornments like violin and mouth harp. I find its successor Irrbloss to be a mildly less intricate experience, but nonetheless hitting a lot of the same emotional strings, with a noted improvement in the vocal arrangements that deserves a mention.

Snarling passages are alternated with clean male and female vocals, and to the band's credit these never develop into forgettable fodder as they do in many similar outfits who bite off more than they can chew simply for having such diverse elements available to them. The majority of the material here flows along at a mid-pace, strung across thick chords of somber, inherent melodies while flurries of folkish leads are threaded through the anachronistic landscapes of "Bergtagen", "Tokikvad" and "Uppåkra. The multi-layered vocals are formidable, hurling one back into the annals of memory as if the host of a centuries old village were surrounding him with song, while the rhythm section is tremendously competent at building power behind the notably simplistic guitars. Just listen to the amazing chanted intro to "Skaldefader" and be blown straight into the dark ages.

They also excel in cleaner climes, like the intense escalation which inaugurates "Norrland", or the closer "Kungabål", pretty much pure, sorrow swollen string folk with gorgeous female vocals. Most of the tracks are managed into accessible sized bites, with only a few stretching themselves to greater lengths ("Tokikvad", "Norrland"), so there is very little of the droning repetition that often poisons the more pretentious artists in this category. The production is full and glistening without being overly digitized or polished, and probably my only issue is that the individual guitar lines are often drab in of themselves. Not that Yggdrasil are supposed to be excessively sprightly or foolish sounding; they are in fact solemn and poignant. But it would be a positive if the band's wonderful skill at arrangement could be broken down into its components without losing some of the mood and sorcery. That aside, while Irrbloss doesn't offer anything above or beyond its predecessor, this is still a strong album by a band dedicated to doing this right.


Well-Done Folk Metal - 82%

ImpureSoul, May 3rd, 2011

So here's Yggdrasil with their third full-length album, Irrbloss. This is my first time hearing of Yggdrasil, let alone hearing their music, so this review is from the standpoint of someone new to their music.

Generally, the songs here generally have an open, cheery tone, the clean vocals overpower the harsh ones, and there's a whole slew of assorted different instruments like flutes, violins, cellos, and more. Everything here is fluid and melodic, the songs shifting and winding.

The album opens with what is probably the most promising track: Höstmörkrets Natt. As with a lot of these sorts of albums, we start with a nice melancholy intro with what sounds like an accordion. The intro isn't dragged through the mud and stretched out for 2 minutes, though--instead, the drums pound their way to the surface and the guitars and bass shortly follow, being led by the same intro that had started up before. The singer comes in with a steady chant as the song drops to a mid-paced chugging interlaced with a harsh section that alternates, giving a nice patterned sense. The song continues to wind through different patterns and tempos, giving us a full range of the vocals. The clean vocals, as I said before, are pretty much centre stage. They aren't quite singing, though--it's more of a gregorian chanting. It really gives the album a very folksy, viking feeling that reminds me of Windir's Arntor. And then there are the harsh vocals. These aren't as good. They're confident enough, they aren't very whiny, and they have strength in them. My one big issue is that they seem to be recorded inconsistently with everything else. They sound like they were just sloppily overlapped with the rest of the music, recorded in different conditions. It sounds like they've been recorded in someone's basement, while the rest of the album's production is clean, as if recorded in a confident studio. Aside from that, the vocals don't have much range, and they can't seem to sustain a note for longer than two seconds. Fortunately, these vocals aren't used enough to become irritating, and they become a minor detractor. Lastly, we have a female vocalist. Most of the time, she's in the background, singing softly along with the music. She doesn't come to the forefront all that often, which makes it a treat when she does. Her voice stands out to me the most in Bergtagen, although she does have a soft, quiet song at the very end of the album where she comes to the called Kungabål, but apart from that she just serves as a backup singer.

The album is very winding, full of interesting drum fills, sporradic yet organized guitar riffing, and the occassional solo-esque section (the chorus riff to Bergtagen, for instance). These solo-ey moments are probably the most unorthodox for the genre, but they're all well executed and work well with the music. There's always another instrument that's brought forward to supply good, organic variation that blends well with the bold-adventure tone of the album. The songs vary pretty well in tone as well; songs like Skaldefader and Uppåkra feel perilous and a little ominous, while songs like Irrbloss and Norrland feel airy and light. There are a few moments in songs where my attention wanes, but those are very few. Generally the album feels like it has many layers and dimensions to it.

The only negatives to point out is that the album doesn't seem to lead in any direction. The songs are all good by themselves, but they don't seem to lead the album to a conclusion. Apart from the outro song, the order that the songs take are pretty interchangeable. This is a pretty nit-picky complaint, though. There's another thing about this album that prevents it from being really really good, and I feel that this is a more legitimate complaint: it doesn't cross any borders. It's pretty much a straight-to-formula genre imitater. It emulates the folk metal sound really well, which is good, but Yggdrasil doesn't take the genre and make it it's own.

So, in the end, Yggdrasil's Irrbloss is a sugary, easy-to-swallow taste of competent and well-written folk metal, although it fails to push the envelope or deviate from it's fellow folk metal bands and folk metal norms. This isn't too much of a detractor if you're someone like me who doesn't listen to a ton of folk metal, and like I said--the album's confidence does overshadow the use of a standard formula, but I think a touch of deviance or innovation would really push Irrbloss--and by extension, Yggdrasil--into something much more worthwhile. But anyway, overall the band defenitely has a lot of strengths and promise, so if you're a folk-metal lover, this is something that's defenitely worth checking out.

Best songs here are probably Bergtagen, Höstmörkrets Natt, and Uppåkra.

Originally written for