Grimner – Urfader
Release Date: 18/11/2022
Running Time: 55:00
Review by Rory Bentley
During my very first review for Ever Metal I recounted the devastating psychological toll that lock down had taken on me which manifested in me liking Folk Metal, something which has never truly gone away as my glowing review of Verikalpa’s beer drenched debut will attest to. Now at the end of the year I am still no further forward from disrupting my proclivity towards jaunty music made by silly Nordic lads dicking about in the woods. As the resident Hardcore aficionado at EM, and a shaven-headed angry man that stomps around in Doc Martens all day listening to Agnostic Front, I can’t even begin to tell you what an image-killer this is for me, but you can’t fight what you like!
Swedish Folk dorks Grimner are a supreme example of everything I like about the genre. There is a rustic sense of ancient mystery evoked by the traditional instruments and mythological subject matter, there are big sing-along hooks and there’s a fine balance of silly fun and wistful melancholy that only the best Folk Metal bands can capture. When “Urfader” is at its best, it is every bit as enchanting and whimsical as the frankly stunning album art and represents a high-water mark for 2022 Folk Metal. I can’t believe I’m typing some of these sentences.
There are three main aspects to Grimner’s sound that really jump out at me and separate them from the pack on “Urfader”. Beginning with the most accessible aspect, the band are really great at the actual Metal part of the genre. A big gripe with Folk Metal is that the riffs and guitarwork often seem perfunctory and generic, with a mid-tempo Thrash riff that Gary Holt would chuck in the bin often making up the spine of a song that seems way more interested in beating you over the head with an accordion. One listen to the searing Melodeath attack of ‘Dar Froet Skall Spira’ is enough to leave you in no doubt that these guys are students of the Metal game and capable of composing songs that would stand up by themselves were they stripped of the bells and whistles that go with the Folk side of things. The lead guitar work is also very well done, with impressively structured solos that do so much more than ape the main melody for a few bars.
The second aspect that sets Grimner apart is a fair bit more divisive to the casual listener- there is a SHIT LOAD of flute on here! Despite the praise I’ve heaped on the axe-slinging contingent of the band, the flute is very much the dominant instrument and your mileage with this record will vary depending on your tolerance of this. Personally, I’m all for it and it’s hard to imagine the huge instrumental hook of ‘Vasterled’ popping as hard with any other instrument. As I have confessed before, Nightwish are my favourite band for reasons I still don’t completely understand, so I’m no stranger to a Folky hoe-down at the centre of a song, so those who love a bit of mid-2000s Nuclear Blast before they started signing cooler bands will feel right at home here. But if energetic opener ‘Hamtad Av Valkyrior’ gave you too many goblin-dancing vibes when the main hook kicked in, its going to be a long listen for you.
The final most distinctive part of Grimner’s sound is their truly excellent vocal harmonies. Gang vocals are as big a part of Folk Metal as they are of NYHC, again a sentence I wish I wasn’t typing, but true nonetheless. If part of your song doesn’t sound like a bunch of lairy blokes in a tavern ruining someone’s quiet post-battle pint, you’re fucking up at Folk Metal, however, rarely are these vocals so pristine and refined while still maintaining that rowdy feel. ‘Ulvhendars Natt’ is lifted from a catchy thrasher to a bombastic anthem by the strident vocal work in the chorus, and ‘Ur Vagorna’ features some gorgeous close harmonies over delicate finger picking in the intro. These two numbers appear back-to-back and illustrate the full breadth of the band’s sound, and both are immensely enhanced by top-notch singing arrangements.
Inevitably my main gripe is that the album is too long, because that’s nearly always my response, but I do feel the impact of the very finest cuts, particular in the latter part of the record, such as the excellent ‘Glod’, would be greater if some of the less essential tracks were consigned to B-sides and bonus tracks. There’s nothing remotely poor on any of this 55 minute runtime, but there’s only so many dungeon-synth-on-crack sections a guy can take before inevitable fatigue sets in. The sheer discipline and brevity Finntroll showed in their 2020 comeback album is a big part of why I feel they have yet to be surpassed at this sort of thing, despite Grimner often matching the quality of their finest moments.
When all’s said and done, though, “Urfader” is a finely composed, raucously performed and surprisingly intricate addition to the modern Folk Metal canon, and as winter draws near you’ll be hard pushed to find a better soundtrack to knocking back some ales and tearing it up with your Troll posse to see out 2022.
‘Västerled‘ Official Video
01. Hämtad Av Valkyrior (Retrieved By Valkyries)
02. Där Fröet Skall Spira (Where The Seed Shall Sprout)
03. Västerled (Westbound)
04. Ulvhednars Natt (Night Of The Ulfheðinn)
05. Ur Vågorna (Out Of The Waves)
06. Helvandrarna (The Hel-Walkers)
07. Elftevisan (Eleventh Tune)
08. Glöd (Embers)
09. Ivaldes Söner (Sons Of Ivalde)
10. En Sista Sköldborg (One Last Shield Fort)
11. Tiundaland (Tiundaland)
Ted Sjulmark – Vocals, guitars
Martin Boe – Vocals, guitars
David Fransson – Bass, backing vocals
Johan Rydberg – Flutes, mandola
Kristoffer Kullberg – Keyboards
Henry Persson – Drums
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Rory Bentley and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this interview, unless you have the strict permission of said party. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.