Microdose: Danheim, Forndom, DakhaBrakha & The Moon and the Nightspirit

Written by Mass

Iranian metalhead Mass (HardAlbumReview on IG) has given us a Noob Heavy first, an article dedicated to brand new folk and dark ambient from around the world.

Artist: Danheim 
Album: Skapanir
Genre: Nordic Folk – Dark Folk 
Release Date: March 17, 2020
Country: Denmark 
Highlights: Forndagr – Aesir – Reida – Kala
Rating: 8.5

Listening to the music of Danheim darts you back in time to centuries ago and amidst the Nordic people. However, unlike many other bands that primarily focus on Viking warfare and the many tales of their battles and conquests, music of Danheim is more domestic and mystic, revolving more around the folktales and the lesser-known side of Norse myths. It feels like living among the townsfolk, plowing, hunting, reciting stories of the past, listening to stories of the gods and legends, shedding sacrificial blood, hearing the rumble of the thunder and fearing wrath of Thor, or maybe building longboats.

As a result of this varied set of subject matters, the music they create ranges from upbeat high-spirited soundtrack of a bloody scene (Blodfest), to a more esoteric ambience (Kala). In the meantime, Mike Schæfer Olsen adds to this mix the powerful sound of nature and natural phenomena, including howling of wolves (Ragnakamp), falling of rain (Blotjarl) or hail (Reida), and crash of thunder (Aesir), which all blend so perfectly with the overall atmosphere of the music to the extent that one might interpret them as instruments, rather than just sounds. The prime example can be Forndagr with its thunderclaps that not only enhance the mood of the song but also work with the drums to set the foundation of this track.

Overall, this album is a remarkable work of Viking-age music and a must to all Scandinaviophiles(!)

Artist: Forndom
Album: Faþir
Genre: Nordic Folk – Ritual Folk – Ambient 
Release Date: April 3, 2020
Country: Sweden
Highlights: Jakten – Hel, jag vet mig väntar – Finnmarken
Rating: 9.0

Forndom is a musical project from Sweden which captures the purest essence of the Norse in its music and reflects it in the most artistic ways possible. Unlike many other bands and projects in this genre, which simply integrate the instruments and offer nothing much more than that (merely a soulless corpse), the music of Forndom has a soul of its own. Their third studio album, Faþir, is an album with a tinge of melancholy ever present in its every note, and its overall ambience is that of wistful sorrow.

All the instruments used are the common ones within the genre, but the sound they make here is wholly to the will of the musician, their master. Besides the traditional Nordic instruments, strings have also been added to further enrich the experience by providing a contrasting yet harmonious understructure for the general sound of the album; this inclusion reminds me of the works of such ambient musicians as the Icelandic genius Ólafur Arnalds or the Argentinian young multi-instrumentalist Sebastian Plano. Jakten, for example, has this ambient vibe. Thus far, Faþir has been the most outstanding Nordic folk album of 2020 in my collection and indeed, one to revisit in the days and months to come.

Artist: DakhaBrakha 
Album: Alambari
Genre: Experimental Folk – Ethno-chaos
Release Date: March 27, 2020
Country: Ukraine
Highlights: Im Tanzen Liebe – Alambari
Rating: 7.0

DakhaBrakha is a very interesting act as they integrate many influences from a wide spectrum of influences, from modern Jazz to folk to cabaret to experimental and many more. They also include several languages in their work like English, German, and Russian among others. What they offer is the echo through the ages and reflect the life of the native denizens of the land, but at the same time, as they incorporate modern sounds in their work, it is very relatable to modern listeners as well. Alambari, the quartet’s seventh and latest album, is well in the mix of what the band does best: experimenting with their roots and borrowing and building on their neighboring ethnicities. In the meantime, they have managed to keep their upbeat, boisterous and rowdy nature in tracks like Vynnaya Ya or Lado, which somewhat border folk punk. My favorite, though, is the German Im Tanzen Liebe (In dancing love).

Artist: The Moon and the Nightspirit
Album: Aether
Genre: neofolk – Hungarian folk – folk
Release Date: June 19, 2020
Country: Hungary
Highlights: A mindenség hívása – Asha – Aether
Rating: 8.0

Something I have always found charming in neofolk music is that each band can have their own unique sound, considering where they come from. They are all under the same umbrella, but they each have their own singular quality that helps them stand out. The Moon and the Nightspirit is one of those with strong pagan roots and a beating shamanistic heart at its core. The seventh studio release of this Hungarian duo in their 17 years of career is a nuanced reconciliation of more atmospheric, more tender neofolk sound, and more coarse and primitive sound of tribal, ritualistic music. Asha weighs more heavily towards the pensive side and Kaputlan kapukon át relies more on the ceremonial features; in the meantime, Aether can have a little bit of both in a soft mix and contrary to that is A szárny, which possesses a doom metal sound. All these elements together make Aether a worthwhile album.

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