Skuggorna Kallar, the fifth album from Skogen, is a work of glorious darkness. Pulling together folk and black metal in ways that testify to the experience of the band, the album is like a journey through some forgotten woodland, full of sights and sounds as wondrous as they are terrifyingly captivating. It is a record content to take its time, with front-loaded appeal but keeping its best aspects slightly hidden, that feels as if it is possessed of a spirit that calls to something almost-forgotten in mankind; a sense of connection to the world around us, of respect for nature, and an understanding of our place in it.
That’s not to say that Skuggorna Kallar is, in any way, some kind of hippy trip. This is very much a dark metal album, where the folk elements and sections compliment that sinister, primeval spirit, as well as creating an effective sense of musical contrast. These contrasts aid the sense of journey that the album creates, from the more direct, shorter songs that open the album up, to the longer, more winding closing songs that end the album on a suitably dark note.
The album opens in immediate fashion, with ‘Det Nordisk Morkret’ launching right into its hook-filled storm of riffs and charismatic vocals. It’s an excellent opener, full of power and provides an instant highlight. The high standards are maintained as the album progresses, with the first half of the album moving in similar fashion up until ominous interlude track ‘Omen’. From this point on, things become even darker musically; the sense that the sun is now hidden and the wind carries a chill is very much present on ‘Frostland’ and ‘The Suns Blood’.
The final two tracks, ‘Beneath the Trees’ and ‘The Funeral’, close the album (and its narrative) out in real style; at once mournful and celebratory, and featuring increased use of English lyrics, they are the high points of the album even as they represent its most emotionally oppressive points. They move with slightly contradictory spirit, reflective of one journey ending and another beginning, with their longer durations allowing Skogen to explore and develop their sound further. It is here where the experience of the band really shows; the two songs are full of ideas, yet they never feel directionless; and they feel nowhere near as long as they actually are.
The overriding impression through Skuggorna Kallar is that of a band who are masters of their sound, knowing exactly what they want to achieve and doing so in style. That they will be playing live shows alongside Enslaved is fitting; despite their different sounds there is a similar spirit to the two bands, of tapping into nature and something greater than ourselves. Skuggorna Kallar is music that is epic without being grandiose; dark without being depressingly so; and full of spirit and heart. It represents all that dark folk metal is capable of, and is another excellent release from Nordvis.