All tracks mastered and produced by Audi Helm Studios except “2hearts into 1”, “Midgard musings”, and Wolves of Odin mastered and produced by Collin Moore”. Midgard Musings” can be heard on the Random Heathen Ramblings podcast. Released on Friday 28 October 2022.
For fans of Danheim, Nytt Land, Heilung.
According to the Vikings wiki, Skogarmaor means “man of the forest”. That man of the forest is former black metal musician Zeb Croom (Oculum Dei, Turris Ruina) whose new musical adventure emerges from the foggy Appalachian mountains (Asheville, North Carolina). First created in the autumn of 2020, this album features a mix of Appalachian folk with dark ambient Nordic folk music blended to create an atmospheric storytelling experience.
Croom employs multiple instruments from skin drums, bear skin rattles, flutes, talharpa, harps, horns and digital instruments to present nine tracks telling stories from Croom’s past and respect and love for his family.
The album opens with the atmospheric and melancholic “The ale tale” (track 1) featuring an introduction spoken by Chieftain Edrvagn. (If you’re looking for a Googlewhack, a search with just one result, search for “Chieftain Edrvagn”.)
A thrumming beat and the sound of crows introduces “Midgard musings” (track 2), a dramatic song that breaks down in the middle to a chilling soundscape before picking up the hypnotic beat once again that is accompanied by the sound of metal on metal (which is about as metal as this album gets), animal bells and a horn.
“Prinsessan min” (track 3) – Swedish for “My princess” features a slow, picked melody and hand drums that blows itself out, topped and tailed by a spoken vocal. “Lifgjafi” (track 4) is another soundscape and collection of spoken vocals and sounds of nature more than a song. “First born son” (track 5) opens with a deep, blown instrument and spoken vocals that morphs into a high melody and then a steady almost industrial beat.
The first sense of anything decidedly song-like introduces itself with “2hearts into 1” (track 6) which features a bouncing, ethnic string melody that is accompanied by a strong Nordic-sounding vocal.
On “The mighty one” (track 7) the crow sounds return with a rhythmic “da-DAya, da-DAya, da-DAya” with pounding drums and throaty singing.
“Wolves of Odin” (track 8) opens with the sound of … no, go on, guess! This song has very stereotypical native American vibes and ghostly whispered vocals, eventually burning out to nothing.
Album closer, “Valhalla kallar á mig” (Icelandic: Valhalla is calling me) continues the whispered vocals before a delicate melody picked out on a harp accompanies a high soprano voice. It is the most melodious and beautiful tracks in this collection and in some ways couldn’t come too soon.
Well… that was most definitely an experience. In many ways this is more a piece of art than it is a musical album. It is a collection of soundscapes and samples from nature, spoken over by voices and animals. Would I listen to this often? Other than the final track, probably not. But it has definitely left me feeling that I experienced something new, I saw a glimpse of another culture, another way of looking at the world and that has to be a good thing.
Review score: 70%
MDPR contacted me inviting me to preview Skogarmaor’s recent album, thank you. I have no connections to either MDPR or Skogarmaor. I’m not being paid to review this. But I did get a free digital copy of the album to review which is pretty cool. Many thanks to Zach from MDPR, and to Skogarmaor for continuing to create fresh, exciting new music.