REVIEW: Byrdi – Eventyr

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As a nice Yuletide treat, German folk-label Eisenwald is re-releasing BYRDI‘s 2014 debut, “Eventyr,” digitally and, for the first time, on CD on December 9th, 2022. If the folk act’s name doesn’t instantly ring a bell, it might have something to do with the fact that BYRDI largely seems to have been a hidden underground gem until now. If memory serves me right, such dark and gloomy, profoundly atmospheric Nordic folk was not yet a “thing“ 8 years ago – well, not as big of a thing, at least, as it is now. As such, bringing these forgotten gems back into the light makes a lot of sense. The album’s backstory makes “Eventyr” a special release. It is the debut full-length of the Norwegian folk duo comprised of Nash Rothanburg and Jørn Øyhus and, according to the creators themselves, the songs were created as an answer to an inner drive to search and capture something thought-evoking, mind-expanding, and feral about the human condition. The album was recorded at various locations – places that had some peculiar energy about them – and if you listen very hard, those energies show through, even though you probably won’t understand a single word in the Norwegian lyrics. The press release dubs the outing as a result of many personal journeys: spiritual, mental, and physical and, rather befittingly, the selection is a somewhat similar journey in itself.

The journey begins with a shortish instrumental introduction entitled “Vardauger.” The title refers to a spirit predecessor in Scandinavian folklore, a ghostly entity, or a phantom double, with, say, your footsteps, voice, scent, appearance, or overall demeanor. These spirits are believed to precede you in different places, resulting in people thinking to have seen you before you have physically arrived at the place. I like the idea to name the album intro this way: the darkly atmospheric, 1-minute track gives a good taste of what’s to come and sets a somewhat sinister mood for the album. It could have been a tad longer, but I’m not complaining: the first actual song, “Skare,” picks up quite smoothly where the intro leaves off, weaving a somber tapestry of (what sounds like) acoustic guitars, violins, flutes, and chanting. The song takes off on a highly cinematic tangent, of the medieval drama variety.

The plot thickens on “Tuntroll,” a song in which the lyrics have something to do with trolls, I presume. Here the atmosphere turns a tad more intense. On occasion, I cannot avoid feeling that the spirit of ULVER‘s 1996 album “Kveldssanger” is prominently present – and not merely on this particular track but on this BYRDI offering as a whole. Some of the songs do, indeed, evoke a similar feeling of quiet, eerie solitude – the track, “En Fullblods Byrde,” perhaps the most prominently.

I have no idea whether either of the musicians in this duo has an extensive background in the Norwegian metal scene. The main riff on “Fanden Og Kvitekrist” resonates with such a robust metal aura that I wouldn’t be surprised if that were indeed the case… OPETH could drop this tune in the middle of their show and no one would bat an eye. Those dissonant arpeggios on the acoustic guitar are particularly delicious and, paired with the shamanic drumming, they build up tension rather nicely in what I reckon to be the song’s verses. The chorus sections are more about that in-your-face Viking energy.

I admit that I’m not exactly a seasoned veteran when it comes to Nordic folk but, as far as I can discern – that is, judging by a handful of albums released in the past couple of years – there always seems to be one straight-up hippie-folk-like song on these sorts of outings. Here, it is “Hovslag” that channels that spine-chilling Simon & Garfunkel vibe rather nicely – well, you know, a little bit of medieval guitar doodling and some beautifully layered vocals. Yeah, why not – as long as it works this well!

Enter yet another OPETH-vibed acoustic folk-prog epic – “Furer” – and the 2-minute cinematic epilogue, “Speilet,” and the journey has come to a close. I must admit to having once been one of those who wonder why albums get the re-issue treatment: aren’t you supposed to buy them when they are first released?! Well, of course you are, but sometimes pure gems slip by under your musical radar – especially when the artists are as underground as BYRDI here. These sorts of treasures sure deserve to be unearthed. With this re-release, these Norwegian folk Vikings join the prestigious pantheon of quality re-releases brought back into the limelight in 2022, along with the haunting efforts of artists such as Kenny Wayne Shepherd and AYREON.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. Vardauger
  2. Skare
  3. Tuntroll
  4. En Fullblods Byrde
  5. Fanden Og Kvitekrist
  6. Hovslag
  7. Furer
  8. Speilet

Lineup

Nash Rothanburg

Jørn Øyhus

Label

Eisenwald

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