Formed in Motala, Sweden, Folk Metallers Grimner have been doing their hairy Viking thing for ten years now. Originally singing in English, the band reverted to their native tongue after the independently released A Call For Battle demo in 2010. The Färd EP followed next, with the band’s first full-length album Blodshymner (Stygian Crypt) arriving in 2014. An acoustic EP and a handful of singles later, the band released their second album Frost Mot Eld (Despotz Records) in 2016, and now they follow that up with more Nordic jauntiness on their new album, Vanadrottning (Despotz).
If things sound a little different this time, then that’s probably due to the addition of guitarist/vocalist Martin Welcel, who replaces Marcus Asplund Brattberg who left the band last year. As usual, traditional folk rhythms sit alongside heavy riffs and driving drums, although the sprightly, frolicsome melodies are accompanied by some darker, brooding compositions this time. Hearty drinking songs are juxtaposed with more aggressive anthems to battle and Norse mythology.
Translating to Queen of the Vanir (a group of clairvoyant Norse gods associated with magic and fertility), the title track refers to the goddess Gullveig, and with its war drum opening and trademark flute at the forefront of the mix, gets things off to a flying start. Songs like ‘Avundas Hennes Ungdom’, with its vaguely Nightwish ‘Last Ride of the Day’ style melody, go hand in hand with annoyingly catchy single ‘En Fallen Jätte’, ‘Dödens Dans’, and ‘Fafnersbane’. Some songs, such as ‘Kvällningssång’, and ‘En Vilja Av Järn’ begin with devilish vivacity, but slow down into something darker and almost aphotic as they progress. The ominous ‘Âgers Salar’ is one of the album’s heavier highlights, while ‘Sången Om Grimner’ could almost pass as a Viking power ballad. Possibly.
If there’s a downside, it’s that even with its varying styles, Vanadrottning can get a tiny bit repetitive on occasion, but it’s doubtful that fans of the band would mind that one little bit, and any other slight changes won’t lose them any listeners either.
Overall, it’s another win for the hairy men in warpaint and animal skins.