Sunday morning music

Now and then readers send me music recommendations, to which I always listen in the hope of discovering something new, interesting and enjoyable.  Even if I don’t necessarily like what they recommend, it helps stretch my musical boundaries and keep me from staying in the same old rut.

One such recommendation came from reader Badfrog a few weeks ago.  He sent a link to a video on YouTube.  It’s from Icelandic group Skálmöld, who are described by Wikipedia as “a Viking / folk metal band”.

The band’s name is literally translated as Age of Swords and also means “lawlessness”, referring to the Age of the Sturlungs of Icelandic history, when a civil war broke out between the country’s family clans.

. . .

From the beginning, Skálmöld’s intention has been to combine the sounds of the traditional Icelandic music and metal. Initially, the band planned to use a lot of folk instruments, but soon decided to scale back and have three guitar players instead. The band’s influences include such metal bands as Metallica, Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Slayer, Amon Amarth and Ensiferum, as well as Jón Leifs, the classical Icelandic composer. Skálmöld’s lyrics, written by Snæbjörn entirely in Icelandic, are inspired by the Norse mythology and Icelandic sagas. Furthermore, the lyrics conform to some of the Old Norse poetic forms, including fornyrðislag and sléttubönd.

All the band members are members of the heathen organisation Ásatrúarfélagið. Jón Geir Jóhannsson explained the way they believe in the Norse gods: “You shouldn’t personify them. It’s not people, it’s stories that represent human nature. So yes, the ethics are there, but we don’t believe in them as ‘persons’.”

There’s more at the link.

I freely admit, I don’t like their vocal style.  Their lyrics are sung in a hyper-aggressive growling tone typical of a lot of thrash metal groups, which I find grating and unpleasant on the ear.  On the other hand, their melodies are undoubtedly inspired by both the folk and the classical traditions, and make interesting listening.  Judge for yourself in this live performance (with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra) of the group’s composition “Kvaðning” (which Google Translate renders as “Query” or “Question”).

The track is taken from the group’s 2013 live album “Skálmöld Og Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands” (“Skálmöld with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra”).  The group also has five studio albums to its credit.  Many tracks are available on YouTube.  Here, for example, is the song “Vanaheimur” from their 2016 album “Vögguvísur Yggdrasils” (which translates as “Cradle of Yggdrasil” or “Yggdrasil’s Cradle” – it appears to refer to the branches of the fabled tree of Norse mythology as the cradle of the life or lives that depend on it).

My verdict?  I like their melodic lines, and the innovation of blending the Viking and folk rock genres (or, more accurately, sub-genres).  I dislike (and I mean really dislike) their vocal style;  to me, its grating violence ruins the music behind the lyrics.  There are clearly many who disagree with me, or the group (and the many thrash metal groups like them) would not survive and thrive as they do.  Nevertheless, I’d like to hear an album of their music without the vocal track.  I think an instrumental version would be much more enjoyable to my old-fashioned ears.

I leave it to you to make up your own mind.  Meanwhile, thanks to reader Badfrog for broadening my musical horizons.  This was an intriguing diversion.



  1. Hi, Peter!

    I am not familiar with Skálmöld, thanks for sharing. Based on your comments, you might find another symphonic metal band, Nightwish, more to your liking. The male singers of this Finnish band also adopt the guttural style of singing, but their primarily singer is a woman (at least one of which was operatically-trained). They are also aware this is not to everyone’s taste, and sell double albums with instrumentals of each vocal track (you can find instrumental versions to the below on Youtube).

    Here are a few samples from their album Imaginaerum, recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra.

    Storytime is representative of their sound.

    Scaretale is a dark carnival track very much in the vibe of Danny Elfman meets Ray Bradbury. And more than a little influenced by Disney’s Haunted Mansion!

    And the best for last, the instrumental Arabesque—the soundtrack for the best Prince of Persia movie pre-credits action sequence that never was.

    I am cherry picking, of course. Not everything Nightwish does is to my taste! But they have some gems. Hope you find something of interest as well.


  2. @Paul: I'm familiar with Nightwish. Sadly, much of their music appears to be a deliberate undermining of and/or attack on Christianity, taking many of that faith's sacred symbols and individuals and putting them into a very secular, sexualized, and at least implied satanic setting. "Wish I Had An Angel" is only one example: there are many more.

    That's my problem with a great many heavy metal and rock groups. They could make good music without adding their anti-religious and anti-Christian emphasis, but they don't. That rules them out for me.

  3. What about Tŷr from the Faroe Islands? Much of their music is based in Viking tales and local folk songs. Their album "Land" is probably the best in that regard, though their telling of "Ragnarok" is also great

  4. Also, if you want some fantastic music that's actually pro-Christian, look into Neal Morse and his band. It's progressive rock with some metal and doesn't throw faith under the bus. Few musicians have done such a good job recently of mixing faith and music and not having it be crummy "Jesus is my boyfriend" pop tunes.
    If you need a place to start, his "Sola Scriptura" album on Luther is solid.

  5. Skálmöld… woof. The instrumentals appeal to me also, but the vocals not at all. It sounds as though the vocalists are, well… horribly constipated.

  6. Try "Garden of Earthly Delights" by Apocalypse Orchestra. Their vocals are clean, with very nice harmonies. I haven't paid super close attention to the lyrics specifically regarding content but they seem mostly pretty mild. They even use a hurdy-gurdy 🙂

    I will say the video has some pagan-ish overtones, but no worse than Dio ever did.

    1. Oof, deeper inspection shows it to be a rather cynical view of the garden of Eden and the fall of man; told somewhat obliquely. The melody is haunting and interesting, and the voices are well arranged however.

  7. Antifa: I'm angry and we will give you Trumpers hell.

    Me: Bitch, let me sing you the song of my people.

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