Skálmöld: Börn Loka

Idiosyncratic Icelandic Viking metallers get stuck in

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Iceland’s Viking/folk metallers Skálmöld are nothing if not bold. A relatively new act, they have one hand holding tight to the coattails of the whole Viking/battle metal explosion – every song on this, the group’s second album, takes its title directly from Norse mythology – but at the same time seem determined to carve their own path, with little or no care for genre convention.

Unlike the majority of their peers, the six-piece make no attempt at period dress or a showy image and their musical exploits are equally unconventional. Where 2010 debut Balder opened with some fairly authentic-sounding folk melodies sung a capella, occasionally accompanied by children (evoking some rustic historical scene), Börn Loka opts for a quasi-orchestral approach, a female operatic voice interrupted by a loutish male voice bellowing about Odin.

It’s a good indication of what’s to come, and where its predecessor was relatively solemn and restrained, this new opus bares a brash swagger, opting for an in-your-face assault, big hooks and plenty of vocal variation. Hardly subtle then, but it’s eclectic and engaging nonetheless.