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Skalmold - Born Loka Review

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Skalmold - Born Loka

Skalmold - Born Loka

Napalm Records
Born Loka is the second album from Icelandic Viking metal group Skálmöld. Their name literally translates to “age of swords” and refers to a period in Icelandic history when a civil war broke out between various clans. The term can also mean “lawlessness” or generally refer to a period of turmoil.

While Skálmöld's songs are generally inspired by traditional Icelandic music, they make very little use of folk instruments, preferring instead to translate the melodies into arrangements for the usual metal instruments. They are inspired by both Norse and Icelandic sagas, which frequently overlap.

As a result, they have managed to construct an album that is both historically engaged, especially in regards to the most sweeping and epic narratives of their rich culture, while also avoiding a lot of the battle-metal and barroom brawl cliches of their peers.

The album's title means “Loki's Children,” and appropriately this record has a distinct playfulness to it. Skálmöld are going for a fun and accessible sound, so for the most part hit a sweet spot right in the middle of blackened, melodic death metal with strong folk song structures. However, they are also not afraid to follow other paths, such as the thrashy, high-speed section of “Miðgarðsormur” or the stomping revelry of “Gleipnir.”

At every turn, they are looking to capture a sounds that is enjoyable and celebratory above all else, and refuse to dwell on the faux-seriousness and gravity many other bands fall prey to. In this way, they accurately capture the feeling of a lot of their source material, stories of gods and monsters who shaped the world but also fell prey to human lusts and mistakes, and made world-shaking jokes.

If there is one major quibble with the record, it is the production is not terribly strong. The mix tends to be on the bland side, even muddy, so that all the bright edges of the guitars are buffed to dullness. The rhythm guitar is particular often gets lost, reduced to a vague throb rather than the living melodic thread it should be.

However, despite this shortcoming, Born Loka remains fun, charming, and generally well-made.

(released November 6, 2012 on Napalm Records)

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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