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Skamold - Born Loka (Napalm Records)

By: Kenneth Gallant

[7/10] Viking metal is ubiquitous these days. The genre’s facing over-saturation at times, since so many bands sound roughly the same. As for Skalmold though, they hail from Iceland and stick closely to the Norse mythology blueprint. With this being said, Born Loka (meaning Loki’s Children) is the band’s sophomore release and it continues to capture a whole new world of rich ideas. These ideas are firm on the belief in folk tales and are all reinterpreted as a heavy metal soundtrack.

Unlike what their Baldur debut chronicled, Born Loka shifts into a different direction and focuses on siblings Hilmar and Brynhildur. Both are the spawn of Loki and Hilmar desperately wants to become a feared warrior, but must undertake a perilous journey fighting horrible monsters and make the ultimate sacrifice. As you can tell this is a concept record and adding a classical choir to help with the proceedings makes this album quite unique. Definitely a heavy metal soundtrack, and more importantly a chance for Skalmold to further stretch the characteristics of their brand of Viking metal.

In addition to the use of a classical choir, Skalmold also utilize the vocal talents of Edda Tegeder to help further layer the rich landscapes of Born Loka. This richness is fairly evident throughout the songs and the band takes an aggressive approach to writing music. There are influences that range from 80’s thrash, the NWOBHM, and 90’s era black metal to full effect. Songs like “Gleipnir” take a thrashy approach and “Fenrisulfur” which plunges into a darker vein help to push the aggression along. Skalmold also craft their sound around the use of keyboards, choir and the orchestral arrangements to truly give Born Loka an epic feeling. The song “Loki” will definitely benefit most from this craftsmanship and at a length of nine minutes; the track is a fitting way to end this release.

The one drawback to Born Loka is the clean vocals and how they seem low in the mix. The harsh vocals are quite audible and tend to dominant more than the clean vocals do and is a shame because the vocals really should carry this album, and sadly they do not for most of Born Loka’s running time. Putting that minor irritation aside though, the production is quite good and this is definitely an album which successfully mixes its influences to craft a unique Viking metal experience.

Born Loka brings the epic story of Hilmar to sweeping heights and combines raw and melodic tunes to captivate the listener. Viking metal is a genre that loves to recount the grand tales of Norse Mythology and Hilmar’s arduous journey to personal sacrifice is worth giving a listen to.

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