Being a big metal fan, I was inspired by the recent TV series “The Last Kingdom” to track down some Viking metal from Denmark. That wasn’t as easy as I thought it might be. There seem to be numerous bands falling into this specific genre from other Nordic countries – mainly Norway and Sweden with Finland probably coming third – such as Enslaved, Helheim and Grand Magus, even bands from Germany such as Helrunar, but I was only able to find one Danish band being categorised as Viking metal – Svartsot.
The band, whose name apparently means “black sickness”, was formed in 2005 by Danes Cris Frederiksen (guitars), Claus B. Gnudtzmann (vocals), Michael Lundquist Andersen (rhythm guitar), Henrik B. Christensen (bass) and Niels P. Thøgersen (drums) with Englishman Stewart Lewis providing flutes, whistles and bodhran.
Debut album “Ravnenes Saga” (meaning “The Saga Of The Ravens”) was released in 2007. However, during pre-production work for the band’s second album at the tail end of 2008 the entire band, with the exception of Frederiksen, quit.
A new line-up, featuring fellow Danes Thor Bager (vocals), Cliff Nemanim (rhythm guitar), Danni Jelsgaard (drums) and Hans-Jørgen Martinus Hansen (flutes, whistles, accordion, bagpipes) and another Englishman in James Atkin (bass).
Two further albums were released – “Mulmets Viser” (meaning “Songs Of The Darkness”) in 2010 with “Maledictus Eris” (meaning “Cursed Shalt Thou Be”) following in 2011.
Another line-up change in 2012 saw Nemanim replaced by Michael Alm on rhythm guitar and Jelsgaard giving way to Frederik Uglebjerg behind the kit.
Recorded back during late 2013 and early 2014, the group’s fourth studio album, which is entitled “Vældet” (meaning “The Well”), was finally released in February 2015.
The record kicks off with the single “Midsommer”, beginning with gentle acoustics and rim-shots before the whole band come in and we’re off into a nice up-tempo folky tune. Stylistically we’re talking harsh vocals here, akin to those performed with the likes of Eluveitie, though there are no clean female vocals to offset those.
That said, the album does feature a guest appearance from Nanna Barslev from Danish folk metal act Huldre on “Kilden – I Marker Og I Lunde” and “Ved Vældets Vande” as well as some clean male vocals provided by Alm during “Allerkæresten Min”. Nonetheless, for the vast majority of the album its harsh vocals.
According to the band’s website their lyrics concern the history and folklore of Denmark, but in terms of understanding the lyrics the vocal style makes zero difference to me as I don’t understand a word of Danish!
I do understand music though, and what I like. This is a record that I like a lot. The musicianship is of a very high standard. There are some great melodic guitar lines and solos amongst the riffing, good use of the more folky instruments and I really enjoyed Uglebjerg’s drumming – great stuff.
My favourite tracks are “”Kilden – I Marker Og I Lunde”, the instrumental “I Mørkets Skær”, “Markedstid” and the closing epic “Ved Vældets Vande”.
There is a tendency sometimes with folk metal for things to get a bit samey after a while, but I’m pleased to say that this album has enough variety from song to song, and some nice changes of pace and mood too, to make this worthy of repeated spins…
1. Midsommer / 2. Urtekonen / 3. Kilden – I Marker Og I Lunde / 4. Allerkæresten Min / 5. Moder Hyld / 6. Markedstid / 7. I Mørkets Skær / 8. Ved Vældets Vande