Review: Garmarna “Förbundet” [Season of Mist]

Review: Garmarna “Förbundet” [Season of Mist]

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The label Season of Mist has always found joy in experimental releases, so this year they’ve decided to join forces with a Swedish folk rock legend Garmarna. And in this successful collaboration the experimental electro folk album “Förbundet” has been released in November 2020. Garmarna is long way from classic metal scene, but their music is so profoundly dark and desperately deep, that their creation perfectly fits into the concept of this sophisticated label, known not only for the quality of music, but also originality beyond the traditional.

Garmarna exists for thirty years, this band has earned the recognition without spoiling the original sound and thirst for avant-garde finesse, with every new record adding something new. They have experienced with trip-folk and modern rock, but this album is more synthetic, though the folk side is stronger than all these electronic surprises. Usually they choose the traditional Nordic songs and transform them into modern folk hymns with outstanding somber gracefulness and intelligent arrangements. “Förbundet” is their only sixth full-length album, so that’s an important and mirthful event for the folk lovers, and now with a support from Season of Mist, they’ve drew attention of heavier auditorium. Their comprehension of Swedish folk traditions and ethnic musical spirit is beyond, and their harmonic embedding of modern and electro elements simply crushes the musical scene with this ingenious art product, Garmarna is totally unique band.

There are nine songs on this release, and two of them are written entirely by Garmarna, and that’s very audible, because these songs really differ from the traditional folk material. There’s a lot going on here, so many sui generis guest musicians were involved in this multilayered elaborated record. Apart from traditional violin, viola or harp, there are more exotic instruments, like hurdy-gurdy, kantele, Hardanger fiddle or moraharpa, pertinently decorating the deep folky side of this record. Of course, this album truly shows also its synthetic side, even adding some dancy and foolishly joyous moments, but only in rare glimpses, the dark and mournful spirit of this release is far too strong, but with frequent ritualistic and minimalistic outbreaks, this sorrowful melancholy is slightly smoothed away. The echoes of the past and their flirt with trip-hop also were spotted on “Förbundet” (like on “Vägskäl”).

The most Garmarnish songs presented on this album are “Sven i Rosengård” and “Lussi Lilla”, these are more folkish and less complicated, not so despondent, but not cheery all the same. But the most dynamic and modern track is “Ramund” with the strongest electronic parts with repetitive singing, very attractive and catchy interpretation of well-known folk piece about the epic deeds of famous Danish hero. In the same manner is also “Dagen Flyr”, but more positive and danceable without enigmatically featureless monotonousness of “Ramund”. The shamanistic tribal elements also emphasize the Nordic traditional spirit, the song “Avskedet” unobtrusively sends the listener almost in a trance-like calmness, but occult drumming adds some extra creepiness. The ambient elements eloquently seep outside in “Din Grav” and “Avskedet”. The darkest and most chilling compositions are non-traditional “Din Grav” and “Vägskäl”, almost without folk aesthetics, peaceful and sad with meditative aura and emotional singing. The guest singers Ulf Gruvberg and Maria Franz (Heilung) laced their unique voices to a couple of songs. The moody and sorrowful “Två Systrar” with dark and contemporary female energy has back-vocals of Maria, making this song not so repetitive and reserved, but “Lussi Lilla” with a traditional chanting of Ulf is the most even and steady song on the “Förbundet”. But of course, one of the most significant moments is the enchanted and captivating vocals of Emma Härdelin. She uses her voice so freely and confidently, that there’s no even a hint of boredom or apathetic impassivity. Even with the repetitive and almost routine singing she manages to express a whole range of emotions, even within ritualistic passages or monotonous reprises of the same folk pattern, that’s an extraordinary talent and real gift for Garmarna.

Despite the grim and melancholic atmosphere, “Förbundet” instills the total calmness and vital acceptation of the life’s darkest paths. This perfect union of contemporary musical visions and traditional folk historical views creates a pure art without limits. So with “Förbundet” Garmarna has revealed once again their flawless artistic soul.

Release date: November 6, 2020

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About the author

I am into metal music from the school times, started from traditional genres, and now exploring the experimental scene. I'm also interested in modern architecture and contemporary art.

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