Originally written by Erik Thomas
A folk metal band from Norway with a vast array of guest performers; is this Asmegin reincarnated? Not too far off, but no.
Lumsk, while certainly folk metal, are not nearly as steeped in metal extremity, forsaking any black and death elements in favor of a more controlled rock pace that borders on doom. Slow precise mid paced riffs delivered with a wicked down-tuned guitar tone layered over angelic female vocals and simplistic driving riffs. Of course it’s laced with all the flourish of cellos, violins, a contrabass, flutes and choirs. The end result is a stunning album that comes across like Asmegin, Morgenstern and Nightwish at a Renn faire.
A concept album based on the Beowolf-ish exploits of one Åsmund Frægdegjevar, (a Nordic legend), the album tells the story of our hero’s quest to rescue a fair maiden from the clutches of an evil troll and return her to her father amidst the clarion of wedding bells. The fact the tale is told in Norwegian gives it an epic Edda–ish vibe, not just a metal album conversion. Lumsk are also kind enough to translate the song titles for you and gives brief cliffs-notes versions of each song’s part of the story.
The pivotal sound for Lumsk, despite their massive sound and vast instrumentals, is the voice of Vibke Arntzen, who is simply mesmerizing – giving each tale a hauntingly beautiful aura of deep emotion. She is given an equally adept male counterpart in the form of Espen W Godo (synths also), whose clean croon carries the male character perfectly without stepping into cheesy operatics or Goth droning.
Musically, don’t expect anything too adventurous, as when stripped of its folk metal overlay, Lumsk could be considered pretty bland, as their mid tempo chugging riffs never stray into anything too energetic. But when backed by the sublime vocals and array of folk instrumentation, the end result is breathtaking.
The thirteen tracks cover expected territory: a brooding intro (“Det Var Irlands Konge Bold”-So Said the King), the peaceful love song (“Har Som Spunnid Gul”-Hair Like Spun Gold), the dramatic confrontation, (“Skomegyvri”-The Troll Mother), the final battle (“Kampen Mot Bergetrolli” –The Battle Against the Mountain Trolls), and the joyous conclusion (Der Er inge Dag’e”- Åsmund Returns). So much so that with no knowledge of the language, you can gauge the tales key moments perfectly, and that’s a real tribute to the song craft of Lumsk; despite their outward simplicity, the songs simply do their job at carrying the story.
The whole album flows like mead into a horn, and listening to single songs defeats th object the album. But I have to admit, three songs stood out for me: “I Trollehender” (In The Realm of The Trolls), has a massive main riff that, combined with haunting strings, makes for a striking mix. Second, the delicate yet epic build and vocal interplay of “Slep Meg” (Let go of me) just highlights Arntzen’s sultry voice, which is worth it alone. Then there is the simply brilliant “I Lytinne Tva” (Cut In Half) – as addictive a song as I have heard all year. The opening notes of the violin give way to a crushing riff, that while repetitive and almost mechanical in its gait, just sticks in your head. Then, believe it or not, the ever-so catchy chorus actually had me singing along IN NORWEGIAN!!! And even though the end result (often in the shower) sounded like the Swedish Chef from The Muppets, it’s one of the most enjoyable songs I’ve ever heard, and it has me learning Norwegian.
There’s some less impactful songs towards the end of the album (“Langt Nord I Trollebotten” sticks out as rather aimless), but upon the end of the album, I’m pretty breathless. Especially if you hang about for the hidden acoustic reprisal of “I Lytinne Tva”.
A superb album that is a must have for the folk metal buff, but those expecting the slightly more extreme visages of say Asmegin or Vintersorg, may want to listen first, as Åsmund Frægdegjevar never steps into up-tempo realms of breaks into anything remotely savage, it’s all perfectly controlled and precise. Throw in a lush, resonant production and you have another addition to my top ten for the year. Storartet!!!!