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Soknardalr

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Album Review

In an almost singular case study within the annals of Scandinavian black metal, where groups require several years and albums in which to experiment, develop, and mature their sound, Sóknardalr saw Windir springing fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus (wrong mythology, but hey, the metaphor fits!), or at least the head of enigmatic visionary, Valfar. Especially since the artist formerly known as Terje Bakken wasn't operating under the forgiving aegis of rudimentary, necro-black metal of the Venom variety; but rather coming up with a daring amalgam of metal, progressive rock, classical, and Norwegian folk music, requiring no small amount of compositional sophistication to be pulled off. Recorded in Oslo, in a mere four days, to boot, this album's surprisingly well-produced seven tracks fuse layers upon layers of keyboards and guitars on an almost unprecedented scale (mid-period Bathory being the one obvious inspirational touchstone), culminating in sweeping, mini-symphonies like "Det Som Var Haukareid" and the especially savage "Mørket Sin Fyrste," as well as awe-inspiring epics like "Sognariket Si Herskarinne" and "Likbør," whose recurring (some might say repetitive) synthesizer melodies would become signature Windir hallmarks. Vocally, Valfar also refused to limit himself to the unintelligible, strangled rasp typical of his black metal brethren (although he did employ the style often enough), taking the plunge into clean singing (and well-timed exclamatory "whoops" and "heys") with a confidence and aplomb that his masterful arrangements rightfully deserved. And, of course, as a final, unique touch, his lyrical themes were all entirely based upon local folklore, and written in his isolated home region's Saognamaol dialect, with its distinctive rolled R's. Subtract from all this the dangerous quiche factor that has made it impossible for other Scandinavian folk-metal purveyors to be taken seriously (notably the oft maligned Finntroll), and it's abundantly clear just why Windir's satisfyingly complex template would undergo only a few minor tweaks (English-sung lyrics, for example) over the course of ensuing efforts.

Biography

Formed: 1994 in Sogndal, Norway

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s

Hailing from Norway's Sogndal region, Windir (meaning "Primal Warrior") combined the vicious fury of black metal with Scandinavia's rich folk music, history, and mythology. Masterminded in 1994 by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Terje "Valfar" Bakken, Windir issued a couple of demos before debuting with 1997's Sóknardalr, on which Steingrim played drums and Steinarson provided clean vocals sung not in English, not in Norwegian, but in the Saognamaol dialect. Unveiled two years later, their second...
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Soknardalr, Windir
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