REVIEW: Nordein – Etna

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Whether it is due to some cosmic alignments of the planets or the general post-pandemic bloom of music that relies less on studio gimmicks and has more to do with actual humans playing actual instruments, Nordic folk seems to be one of those previously rather marginal genres that have gained enormous momentum of late, what with bands such as WARDRUNA and HEILUNG becoming more and more widespread as household names in the rebirth of cool. Drawing from that same primordial fountain of influences, NORDEIN is an up-and-coming Nordic folk outfit hailing from Norway, founded in 2018, with multi-instrumentalist Jørn Øyhus (BYRDI, VARDE, NORDJEVEL) at the helm. The band’s website describes the music as Norwegian mountain music and, in addition to the aforementioned Nordic folk greats, you can also hear subtle entrancing echoes from acts such as DEAD CAN DANCE and ARCANA. The sophomore full-length effort by NORDEIN, entitled “Etna” and set to be released on December 9th, 2022, via Eisenwald, is just as much a psychological and spiritual journey as it is a musical one; it contains dark, ritualistic, yet ultimately uplifting hymns about the process of becoming a man in this chaotic world.

Named after the eternal river of childhood and new life, the title track, “Etna,” opens the album with nothing short of an entrancing incantation chanted in Norwegian. Perhaps due to the fact that I cannot understand a single word, the vocals sound as though reciting some ancient I Ching wisdom (probably because they are, in a way). Then, perhaps, because the song comes off as a modal plateau of sound rather than a composition with a clear tonal center, the song resonates with a particularly pronounced aura of mystery, almost like a meditation piece with a distinct Viking vibe. I must say there is something rather appealing in this combo!

Next, “Evige Fjell,” translates into English as “eternal mountains,” and there is a subtly imposing quality to all the layered chanting – that is, imposing in the sense of one tiny human being standing in front of a mountain, awe-inspired by its mountainous vastness. Once again, I have no idea what Jørn Øyhus is singing about but I reckon it must be something immensely huge. Partly, it stems from the spacious ambiance that is one of the most characterizing aspects of the album as a whole. It’s also something NORDEIN has in common with, say, VÉVAKI, another brilliant Nordic folk outfit that has a focus on the more ambient side of things.

After a few tracks, you kind of get the idea: “hymn-like and ambient” seems to be the name of the game here. In this respect, the next couple of tracks do not offer much in terms of surprise. Any of the first five tracks would fit perfectly on the soundtrack of a film adaptation of some ancient Viking saga. As ethnic meditation music, NORDEIN‘s code of conduct does work wonders, there aren’t two words about it. Of course, it may require a particular mood, time, and place for one to become fully immersed in this sort of music.

Then, the last two tracks on the outing turn out to be nothing short of epic in every sense of the word; both tracks clock in at the +7-minutes marker and both songs throw in every musical hook from the Nordic folk spellbooks (except throat singing). If Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson heard this music, I’m sure that he’d probably put NORDEIN in his speed dial. There is something very cinematic throughout “Etna” – that is, cinematic in the ancient saga kind of manner, with horseback Viking warriors riding onward into battle, with “Trollsdomstoner” playing in the background and, then, “Lyset Min Far” playing when the end credits roll out.

In conclusion: this is one hell of a splendid album!

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. Etna
  2. Evige Fjell
  3. Tankesmeden
  4. Uskuld
  5. Lyktebærer
  6. Trolldomstoner
  7. Lyset Min Far

Lineup

Jørn Øyhus – all instruments & vocals

Tor Erik Øyhus – bassoon

Emily Nybakk – vocals

Mathias Gyllengahm – nyckelharpa

Label

Eisenwald

Links

Bandcamp