Metal Hammer (UK) - - Hammer Contents - JONATHAN SELZER


Ivar Bjørn­son and einar Selvik team up with eivør along the Nordic coast, plus oranssi Pazuzu, Suf­fo­ca­tion, Hooded Men­ace, Belphe­gor and more!


THE SCENE COULDN’T be more idyl­lic.

Stare out from the man­i­cured grounds of the Sol­strand ho­tel across the vast stretch of wa­ter known as the Bjørne­fjor­den and the row of three rocky is­lands in the mid­dle dis­tance are all that could stop you from zon­ing out in awe at the moun­tain ranges beyond, brought into sharper fo­cus by a generous, early sum­mer sun. The sur­round­ing mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Os, hug­ging the be­wil­der­ingly frac­tured west coast of Nor­way, now be­longs to one of the most pros­per­ous coast­lines in the world, but the area’s roots in Nor­we­gian cul­ture go right back to the coun­try’s ori­gins; these straits form the route that the coun­try’s first set­tlers un­der­took over 3,000 years ago, re­ferred to as the Nord­ve­gen (‘The north road’) that gave the land its name.

Nord­ve­gen is also the name of a series of con­certs that En­slaved’s Ivar Bjørn­son and Wardruna’s Einar Selvik are un­der­tak­ing for a sec­ond year run­ning as part of the an­nual Ber­gen In­ter­na­tional mu­sic fes­ti­val, tak­ing place over two week­ends around the coast near their home­town of Ber­gen – Os and Bekkjarvik this week­end, Ul­lensvang and the am­phithe­atre of Moster the next. Where last year’s shows were fo­cused solely on the Hugsjá al­bum, this time around they’ve de­cided to mix things up a bit, both ex­pand­ing their reper­toire to in­clude new ver­sions of songs from their re­spec­tive bands, and bring­ing in Faroese singer ex­traor­di­naire Eivør as a guest artist. A project whose aim is to un­cover a con­ti­nu­ity be­tween those first set­tlers’ ex­pe­ri­ences through the Vik­ing age to the present day, Nord­ve­gen is as much about il­lu­mi­na­tion as en­chant­ment, with dis­cus­sions held on the role of women in Vik­ing cul­ture, the his­tory of Bekkjarvik and more dur­ing the day, as well as Vik­ing batte re-enactments and walks around the var­i­ous sites. The walk along Os’s bay leads a mixed but ex­cited group of met­al­heads and mu­sic lovers of all ages up to a cliff face and a set of steps that leads to the small en­trance of a WWII bunker, giv­ing the first night’s con­cert an air of some­thing clan­des­tine, hid­den from the wak­ing world.

When Einar, Ivar and the three other mu­si­cians – new En­slaved mem­bers drum­mer Iver Sandøy and key­board player Håkon Vinje, and hard­ing­fid­dle player Silje Sol­berg – en­ter the arched cham­ber, there’s a level of an­tic­i­pa­tion in the room that al­ready feels oth­er­worldly. It’s stoked fur­ther by open­ing with the open-ended in­vo­ca­tion of Hugsjá it­self. The spi­dery, me­dieval chords, oar-driv­ing beat and Einar’s gaze-beyond-the-hori­zon chant feel, aptly, like a de­par­ture point for des­ti­na­tions un­known. Wardruna’s Fehu, played on an­cient lyre and En­slaved’s heav­ily re­worked Re­turn To Yg­gdrasill, this time sung in Nordic tongue, are stripped down to ba­sics, aban­don­ing the epic lus­tre of the orig­i­nal ver­sions but be­com­ing all the more ele­men­tal for it, Fehu’s para­bles of wealth and its dan­gers il­lus­trated in stark yet still en­tranc­ing fash­ion.

Eivør might not be well known in wider metal cir­cles, no doubt be­cause most of her mu­sic falls with Scan­dic pop noir ter­ri­tory.

But for any­one con­nected to the pa­gan and folk-ori­en­tated out­posts of the scene, she’s be­come a fig­ure­head, her song Trøl­labundin, played a cap­pella with just an­cient deer­skin drum and a voice that sounds like it’s forg­ing the key to Mig­dard for com­pany, now en­shrined as a shamanic an­them. There’s an­other rip­ple of ex­cite­ment as she and her band ap­pear, com­bin­ing forces for the plain­tive, hard­ing­fid­dledriven rev­erie of Ni Mø­dre Av Sol as she and

Einar weave the most in­ti­mate of spells, be­fore tak­ing over af­ter a gra­cious, tem­po­rary exit from their hosts. Con­sid­er­ing the mi­gra­tory, sea­far­ing themes of the Nord­ve­gen shows, her own songs tonight are a per­fect fit. Salt is an ode to her na­tive coast­line, whose elec­tronic pulse sound like it’s de­signed to keep Eivør’s vo­cals slip­ping the axis of the earth, Sil­vitni a noc­tur­nal bal­lad map­ping love onto oceanic dy­nam­ics and Boxes is a song about mov­ing house, but, like Kate Bush, she can make some­thing mys­ti­cal from the most do­mes­tic of themes. To wit­ness her sing live is to feel that your brain is be­ing re­tuned to the most sub­lime and ele­men­tal of fre­quen­cies, sug­ges­tive of arc­tic ex­panse, as if sculp­tured to im­pos­si­bly fine lev­els of de­tail by the air it­self, and when she picks up the drum to sing Trøl­labundin – de­scribed as be­ing a song about giv­ing your­self to the mo­ment – the whoops from the au­di­ence fall to stunned si­lence in an in­stance as she ekes her voice to ever more rar­efied realms and breaks into caus­tic chants that would turn the head of the most sea­soned death metal fan. It takes a rare singer who would even dream to join her on­stage, but Einar’s re­turn adds yet an­other level to a song that takes you, if not out of time then into its deep­est strata.

Hugsjá’s clos­ing Um Heilage Fjell man­ages to sound both mourn­ful and on the cusp of some brave new world, Eivør’s electronic­s-laced Í Tokuni brings the pa­gan and the modern into per­fect union, and a clos­ing, Eivør-en­hanced Helve­gen, a fu­neral song to sing you to the other side, takes ev­ery­one’s heart even closer to burst­ing point.

It’s a trans­for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ence that’s al­most fully repli­cated the next day on the is­land of Bekkjarvik. Set this time in a com­mu­nity hall with sun­light stream­ing through the roof and an­cient burial mounds look­ing down from the moun­tains above, a com­bi­na­tion of trav­ellers and lo­cals sit in rapt won­der, if not quite the same mag­i­cal sense of re­move as the pre­vi­ous evening. Nord­ve­gen, how­ever, has proved to be a jour­ney of dis­cov­ery, and one that feels like it’s never go­ing to end.

This is a de­par­ture point for des­ti­na­tions un­known

Einar Selvik gets into med­i­ta­tive mode in Os

Ivar Bjørn­son gives a barn­storm­ing per­for­mance The is­land of Bekkjarvik is takenon a jour­ney of dis­cov­ery

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