The days are getting colder and darker and the old homestead is rattling with the cold winds from the North. So, you build that fire and try to settle down. Only, metal doesn’t fit too well right now. Instead, a good piece of Folk would be truly appreciated. One that whispers from old bygone times where the nailed god wasn’t quite invented yet, and the countryside home to all sorts of miscellaneous deities, large or small.
The RMR crew was thus mighty glad that Gåte and their newest album Nord finally found their way onto our review pipe. A truly earthy piece in full acoustic mode that deserves its Pagan Folk label.
And that’s somewhat ironic. More often than not, the band sports some sort of a softish, oddly flavored Folk Rock spiel with a few metal spikes instead of true bone-churning folk screaming for Odin. Yet, as often is the case, these bands truly excel once they go unplugged, and Gåte here is no exception. It is as if this rock or metal thing is only some sort of cloak they wear. Because once they unite around the fire and start rasping away, things look decidedly brighter and – decidedly more pagan.
But make no mistake, not all tracks you find on Nord are also new. Quite a few of them are acoustic versions of formerly released pieces which is fine. Yet, the RMR crew did not quite relish to find recycled tracks from other previously released EPs and records. That we detected four out of five tracks from the 2021 EP Til Nord on this record, for example, will knock a point or two off their rating.1) By Loki’s awful minions, other bands have been badly burned on this ‘zine for filling up their tracklist with rehashed material. That’s cheap marketing and usually the realm of bands with skills way inferior to this one.
Yet, the pretty pristine production and minute attention to detail probably saved this record’s folksy bacon. Because let’s face it, Nord is an accomplished record. It majestically sails into port somewhere between earlier Faun, Heilung, and Myrkur’s Folkesange2). And all that with some slight hints to Wardruna and Lindy-Faye Hella.
Now, I agree, this was some nasty name-dropping right there. But how else can we explain the existence of Talande Tunger that sails dangerously close to the beginning of Heilung’s Krigsaldr, right? But fear naught, we nonetheless loved every second of it and it will sound like friggin’ thunder on stage.
There are more prime cuts on Nord, of course. Svik – for instance – exudes distinctly primeval and pagan vapors. It’s a masterful track that speaks to emotions better than what many of those blackened metal growlers out there manage to do. Or take the delicious slow-marching heft and easy groove Hemnarsverdet throws at you with its slightly North American style rhythms. And we truly got a kick out of the crafty way Horpa got an acoustic overhaul with the use of wind instruments.
Yet nothing would be complete here without Gunnhild Sundli‘s contribution. She constantly stopped me dead in my tracks with that typical and powerful Northern Folk style vocal delivery. Again, nothing really new there, but – boy – this is stylefully done. And besides, we won’t look for (too much) innovation on a folk album. Just sayin’.
Ultimately though, Nord is one of the best folk pieces we had the pleasure to examine this year. This is a truly mature production that speaks to a pretty outstanding attention to detail in songwriting, mix, and master. The record easily crosses swords with those Scandinavian Pagan Folk outfits (and others) of global reach out there. They truly have those outstanding, almost ethereal skills to produce more of that kind in the future.
Or to put it differently, directly in Gunnhild Sundli‘s own words: “Nord has mapped out the very essence of Gåte´s DNA, and it has opened up new paths and made us stronger and braver.”
There, point’s made. Thank you, Gunnhild.