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Lush environment suitable to its mythology - 90%

autothrall, November 14th, 2009

Yggdrasil is a pagan/folk metal project involving members of the Swedish power metal act Broken Dagger, including Magnus Wohlfart (Nae'blis, Folkearth, etc). Vedergällning is their second full-length and pretty sure to please fans of the more subtle and graceful, melodic approach to this category. At its heart, Yggdrasil is a black metal band, but they perform the slower, carousing, mead horn brand of anthems infused with an excellent grasp of lilting melody that gives the album a lot of replay value.

The bands I'd offer by comparison would be Thyrfing and Moonsorrow, but Yggdrasil is a little less pomp and hammer than the former, and not quite as 'epic' or often as lengthy as the latter. Vedergällning is pleasant and powerful enough at 45 minutes. "Oskorei" leads off with some natural ambience into pianos and a driving blast beat which settles in like fog over the fjords. Once it slowed to its fist pumping Viking grandeur, and the beautiful cascade of melodies, I was hooked. Wohlfart's vocals are nothing special, the expected snarling throat, but they're well laid back into the mix of the album as if just another component of a tapestry. The band also makes use of soaring deep male chorus vocals to reasonable effect.

It's a winning formula. Title track "Vedergällning" is excellent, I love the flow of the melody and the breakdown into a sobering, grim yet glistening crawl. "Vitterdimmorna" is the longest track on the album, over 9 minutes and this is where I was most reminded of Moonsorrow. Slow, steady pulse branching into proud, beautiful melodies. "Ekot Av Skogens Sång" has a great groove to its rhythms, like a fleet of dragonships landed and committed to war. "Svälttider" yet again ensnares with its perfectly planned wall of melody, and the remainder of the album is consistently good.

The strengths of Vedergällning lay in its mix. Rather than attempt the bold, in your face style of folk metal (Finntroll, etc) it creates a lush environment suitable to its inherent mythology. The music of Yggdrasil arrives at you from a distance. A boreal Scandinavian woodland, an atavistic soundtrack to a forgotten but much beloved time. It's quite mesmerizing. I did feel as if the clean, deep chorus vocals happened a few times too many, but it's a minor nitpick and the band have created an outstanding sophomore effort that pagan/folk metal fans will simply devour.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Yggdrasil - Vedergällning - 80%

Radagast, October 23rd, 2009

It would have seemed a bit ridiculous even a couple of years ago to be talking about different waves of folk metal, but Yggdrasil’s take on the genre is definitely from what I suppose now would have to be referred to as the old school. While a great deal of the current army of bands in the style focus more on concise catchiness and bouncy rhythms, the Swedes (not to be confused with a dozen or so bands of the same name) take their cues more from the 90s, when the genre was still finding its feet.

Similar in some regards to Oakenshield, though with a greater variety in tempo, the 2-piece band - currently short a drummer – are more concerned with crafting sweeping, complex works that evoke the frosty imagery of their homeland than in adding to the bevy of compact battle hymns and drinking songs already out there.

Though it may be seen as a bit of a lazy reviewing technique, the opening track “Oskorei” provides a very good impression of what will come on the rest of ‘Vedergällning’ and sums up most of the prevalent styles almost immediately. The opening piano section is quickly swallowed up by (but continues to play at half-speed underneath) an avalanche of dissonant riffing and blasting drums, maybe giving the false impression that the listener is in for a relentless Norsecore noise-fest. The song quickly smoothes out though, and twists through a variety of different sections and tempos, with the spellbinding guitar leading the way throughout.

Maintaining the guessing game on the title track, the rollicking opening riff briefly suggests a more reserved venture into Isengard territory, before the blasting double bass kicks in again, accompanied by a soaring violin segment that immediately elevates the song onto a more epic plane and sets the standard for another twisting, unpredictable voyage. The summation of this side of the band’s sound comes at the CD’s high water mark - only 3rd in the tracklist - with the 9-minute “Vitterdimmorna” taking it as far as they are willing to on this CD at least. Chopping and changing with effortless fluidity between brittle black metal vocals and cascading riffs against keyboard-assisted Nordic ambience and resonant chanting, it is a song that keeps the imagination going.

Perhaps wisely toning things down to avoid a sensory overload, the next few songs reign in the meandering looseness of the opening clutch in favour of a more compact approach. The punchy “Ekot av skogens sång” is the mostly likely to provide any broader appeal for Yggdrasil, its jaunty rhythm accented by chiming acoustics in the midsection - given an extra spring by way of the mouth harp - while the harsh and clean vocals are probably given their most even sharing of the stage here.

The last of these 3 more succinct efforts, “Valkyria” is the proud owner of ‘Vedergällning’s’ only guitar solo, and it provides a bit of extra unexpected flair as the song reaches its conclusion. The lead guitar continues on “Storm”, the CD’s black sheep – very short and very aggressive, it has a slightly odd structure, with an ominous (but clean) vocal section coming in the middle of its 3 minutes, with the other sides of the sandwich made up by a menacing, harmonised bit of lead guitar.

The closing track, “Sorg” falls back into the more grand and far-reaching style of the first half of the CD, and brings ‘Vedergällning’ full circle to wrap up in a suitably romantic fashion. The careful ordering of the songs results in a remarkably balanced CD that doesn’t allow itself to become swamped in its own grandiosity, and yet leaves the artistic vision of the musicians involved undiluted.

It goes to show that no matter how packed a particular scene is becoming, so long as there are bands out there writing songs that are fresh and from the heart then there will always be room for more. It may be a little harder to sniff out the real gems in the folk metal arena these days, but make no mistake – they are still there if you know where to look.

(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)

Solid folk metal - 95%

Lord_Lexy, July 25th, 2009

At the time of writing this review, nearly a year has passed since the announcement that Yggdrasil would record a new album. Let me start with a little anecdote of how I experienced the waiting. Nearly every day I checked the band’s site to see what the progress on the new album was. One day came the announcement that the release was set for the 27th of March. Great! I pre-ordered it at my local metal store and knew that within a month I would have my copy of Yggdrasil’s second album. Unfortunately, when you look forward to something very much, bad things are bound to happen (thank you, mr. Murphy). So it was, that I walked into the shop on the 27th of March and that I did not find ‘Vedergällning’. In the weeks following, each Friday I went to the store to search for the album. But, after a three month delay (due to technical and communication problems of the label), ‘Vedergällning’ was finally released. Never before I had been looking forward to a release with the same eagerness. But was all the waiting (and the € 13.90) worth it? Hell, yes it was! Yggdrasil, by the time of recording a two man project, did a very good job and succeeded in making an album that at least equals their debut. The new album is harder and more diverse than its predecessor. Let’s have a closer look.

My absolute favourite on the first album was the opener, ‘I Nordens Rike’. At had an intro of three minutes, and was interesting for the entire nine minutes. What to say of ‘Oskorei’, the opener for ‘Vedergällning’. We hear birds and water, as if we were in a forest. Than a keyboard begins to play immediately followed by a cacophony of drums and guitars. But after this part, a steady rhythm arises from the chaos and more melodic guitars are added. Great: except for that keyboard part, I like it. The intro goes on about two minutes and contains even a great part with an acoustic guitar. After that, grunts and a background choir. This kind of music chills me to the bones. The diversity of components used in the songs (acoustic, very sharp lead guitar at certain points in the song, grunts, background choir) makes this song and the album very interesting. Melodies do return but often they’re played with a different way. ‘Oskorei’ is a worthy opener for the album, that’s for sure.

‘Vedergällning’ is the head banger song. And the darkest of the album. The guitars are doing a very steady melody, the drums and bass sound like a train and a violin is added to the whole. As I see it, the violin is most important to the music of Yggdrasil. In the chorus the grunting is replaced by a male choir, singing in a deep tone and accompanied by the violin. Very interesting and, I don’t know how to say it different, ‘emotional’ of melancholic song.

The rest of the songs on these album are more or less made from the same components but there are no two songs sounding alike. ‘Ekot Av Skogens Sang’ has a flute and sounds like a drinking song at certain points, ‘Valkyria’ ends with a guitar solo (never heard a real guitar solo before in Yggdrasil’s song) and ‘Storm’ is a very short song (two and a half minute) of which the second half is mostly focused on clean vocals. The entire album sounds different from ‘Kvällningsvindar Över Nordrönt Land’ but to say that one is better than the other wouldn’t be fair. Both are very strong albums, interesting and with a strong hint of Norse mythology.

‘Vedergällning’ is an album that uses the right ingredients to make good folk/viking metal: catchy melodies, violins and flutes, grunts and male choirs. The lyrics are sung in Swedish so vocals really are just another instrument. The use of Yggdrasil’s mother tongue is a great plus.

To conclude: ‘Vedergällning’ is a very solid album, offering diversity in its songs. Favourites: ‘Oskorei’ and ‘Vedergällning’.