Album Review: Nytt Land – Odal

Mouth harp and throat-singing lovers, welcome. Even for the ears which are used to it, Nytt Land and its frontal approach may sound unsettling at first. There is something intriguing in the way they use unusually rough yet natural sounds as a canvas to their musical landscapes like on “Darraðarljóð / The Song of the Valkyries” and the atmospheric arrangements are the gracious links within this ensemble.

It might be more versatile than it seems regarding the shades and ambiances that can be built, this means not only spreading over time like it is mostly expected thanks to projects like Forndom and the likes but also growing into something more immediate. The surprise effect and the thrilling ascending introduction, both things to which I’m sensitive, are what promptly made “Ragnarök” one of my favorite songs on Odal. It makes me think that I’ve had a comparable yet intenser experience when Nokturnal Mortum released the single from its last album Verity, “Wolfish Berries“. It is amusing to notice similarities on this specific part. To each his own, the Ukrainian song is a lot more sensual and spectacular while “Ragnarök” offers an eerier and strained feeling.

Before I came to this comparison, the early visual perception I had was a kind of threat coming from gloomy swamps, something monstrous-like stuck between past and present.

The band’s promo pictures did not disappoint me at all although I sense that the first personification I found, some of the creatures from Backwood Madness (a Finnish horror-fantasy movie of which Korpiklaani’s Jonne Järvelä wrote the theme song “Pimeä On Oksan Taitto“), was interesting and somehow not so inaccurate.

“Midsommar” offers an inspiring celestial break, a slight wing to get an overview and to pass through something else: the moment when the night and the cold will slowly and sinuously come back. The usual gaiety of this ageless pagan celebration actually hides the other side of the coin, the last bright days before the hardest time of the year. In a way, this relentless wisdom and humility which could be like a slap behind the head of the frivolity and foolishness surrounding this celebration.

Speaking of which, it takes many forms thereafter. Firstly with their austere version of the unmissable poetic Edda “Hávamál”. It relates the down-to-Earth, the very concrete farmer way of life conserving the myths of this poem as well as the epic dimension of the human adventure attributed to Odin. On “Norður / Yule Song”, the pagan celebration of winter, it rather alluded me of how the ordinary mortals would make it through and emerge greater during dark times as evoked earlier, at least for a moment. Despite the roughness, some warmness and comfort can always be found.

“Tagelharpa Song”, of which the early melody reminded me of “Hávamál”, is the instrumental bridge to the last part of the album that brings things to another aim with “Deyr Fé / The Heritage” by making the 4 years-old son Yuri of Natalia and Anatoly Pakhalenko take part in it, enhancing its concept. The beauty of it expresses itself through a soft thin whistle sounding somehow nostalgic and dancing drums. The drums, as well as the rhythm, are also more interesting than on the previous songs on “Völuspa”. It alternates between the usual austere and crude Nytt Land’s sections and intenser ones, sometimes surprising when keys bring a slight kind of classical, modern gothic touch yet not unnoticeable. The album closes on the melancholic and pretty isolated “Sigrdrífumál / The Ballad of The Victory-Bringer”. It is fully led by Natalia, of which the sensitivity of her singing all the album long sometimes remind me of the late Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan with her own softness and folkloric background.

So, Nytt Land is definitely a band I would see in concert. I watched a few of their live videos on their YouTube channel and I was really pleased to witness their entire “home-made” performance. Unlike what we could expect, there is almost no sample especially not when it could have made it easier for them and maybe get a more accurate result of their studio version. They are musicians working with unprocessed products they don’t over process and it shows their genuineness. They differ a lot from a band who at first could seem similar: Heilung. They are maybe the most exaggerated form of a “shamanic tribal” band in the most flashiness, spectacular and effect-seeking way. And it works. I admit it worked on me for a while but got tired pretty quickly in the end. Even if both bands started in 2014, something tells me this won’t happen with Nytt Land. Maybe is it due to the “Hávamál” influence watching them?

Odal is available now.

Nytt Land: facebook | bandcamp | youtube

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