For Funsies: Nordic Music Recs

Just three quick housekeeping notes, since it’s the first of the month: comments no longer require approval (which was probably already obvious), I updated the about page (I have a face sometimes!), and the tag system has been reworked. That’s basically everything.

Housekeeping is super boring though. So, I figured I’d post something fun to make up for it.

Folk music is a big part of my life, because my parents would take me to the Philadelphia Folk Festival every August. Now I scream “this is my song!” every time I hear a hurdy-gurdy. It’s genuinely ridiculous.

Since this is a Norse-y Heathen blog, I’m picking out my favorite folk music bands from the Nordic countries to share. Few of these bands use instruments that would have existed in the Viking age, as most of the aesthetic we classify as “folk” is comparatively recent. But I’ve always found music to be an effective way to convey culture, and it’s motivated me to learn languages in order to better appreciate certain poetic flourishes. Plus, some of them are just plain fun.

Eivør

Eivør is from the Faroe Islands, and her vocals are a little like Kate Bush. (Fittingly, she’s covered “Hounds of Love.”) She works some serious magic with a frame drum, maybe literally. Like, if you told me Eivør practiced seiðr I would absolutely believe you. She’s a classically trained singer, and has performed at Frostrosir, a yearly Christmas concert in Iceland. She also sings in English and Icelandic. Also, if you watch The Last Kingdom you’ll recognize her voice immediately.

This song in particular has been making the rounds in a lot of online Heathen spaces, probably because she sounds bewitchingly ancient in it. (Fitting, because the title is Faroese for “Spellbound.”)

Valravn

This band is also from the Faroe Islands. Valravn leans more folktronic, and is regrettably no longer in action. Many of their songs are modern takes on folk songs, and they even have one based on part of the saga of Ragnar Loðbrok, “Kraka.” This one, “Kelling” is my favorite, because the strings and synths give it an amazing texture. (Plus, they yell at you to get up and dance, so now you gotta. It’s the law.)

Hedningarna

This is a Swedish-Finnish band whose name means “The Heathens.” This one is heavy on traditional instruments, but isn’t afraid to throw in some equally heavy rock drums or electric guitar–or electric fiddle. Some of my favorites are “Räven,” a song about a Huldra, and “Vargtimmen,” which was covered by Finntroll. They’ve also collaborated with Wimme Saari.

I like this song in particular, because it’s about refusing to cut down trees, and man, it’s a banger with a weird time signature.

Wimme

Since I mentioned Wimme Saari, and I think he’s super neat, I’m giving him his own place on the list. Wimme is a Saami musician from Finland, whose style combines electronic beats with joik–an improvisational and often wordless style of song distinct to the Saami.

As mentioned, he’s also collaborated with Hedningarna for the song “Tuuli.”

Hoven Droven

Hoven Droven is a Swedish band whose name roughly translates to “Helter Skelter” or “whatever.” (Which is…an odd nuance to keep up with, as an English speaker.) Their specialty is hard rock arrangements of old Swedish folk tunes. Two of the members of Hoven Droven now form the rhythm section of Triakel, which is fronted by Emma Härdelin of Garmarna.

This is one of my top five Hoven Droven songs, because I feel like it exemplifies their style really well.

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