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Nytt Land - Fimbulvinter

Nytt Land are a group associated with the Nordic folk genre, and this is a worthwhile new edition of Fimbulvinter, an album which sold out quickly when first released in 2017. Hailing from the harsh climes of Siberia, Nytt Land perform what they term "viking age music" and it's an enchanting combination of pipes, horns and rich in percussion based around their use of hand drums. It's a form of folk music that dips into dark folk and ambient but what sets Nytt Land apart is their use of throat-singing which underpins many of the tracks, combined with enchanting female voices.

The throat singing is native to their Siberian home, but most of the instrumentation, which is hand made, is based on medieval instruments common to the Northern parts of Scandinavia. On Fimbulvinter they look back to the Poetic Eddas, which are delivered in the original Old Islandic. Those Eddas are ancient writings and Fimbulvinter draws particularly on the Völuspá, involving many of the old Norse Gods such as Odin, Baldr, Heimdall as it imparts the story of the creation of the world and its impending end.

In spoken gnarled tones, keening wails and throat singing 'Dauði Balder (Völuspá, 31-35)' which opens the album sounds like an invocation. That's not surprising as Fimbulvinter is quite a magical recording, steeped in nature and the myths of the Poetic Eddas. Rhythms begin to tumble on the following, 'Gullinkambi (Völuspá, 42-44)', in an evocative blend of hand drums and pipes. The chants are rhythmic surrounded by passages of earthy pipes and the occasional call of the hunting horn. It's all quite emotive and archaic sounding, conjuring images of frostbitten misty forests. That connection to nature is also conveyed in the throat singing which in its own way reflects the wind, the landscape and animals.

Each song is based on the Eddas and emphasises different aspects of their unique sound and musical tradition. On 'Gjallarhorni (Völuspá, 46-48)' the voice of Natalya Pakhalenko, who founded the group with her husband Anatoly in 2013, soars to the skies as spartan drum beats pound and strings scrape before it bursts into a jaunty type jig, accompanied by the twang of the jew harp.

Nytt Land are just as effective on restrained pieces such as the archaic sounding title track combining the wordless reverberations of throat singing with solemn scraped strings, while with wolf howls and the low hum of the throat singing 'Fenris Kinder (Völuspá, 40-41)' entwines the voices of Natalya Pakhalenko and Uliana Shulepina in Shamanic chants and enchanting wails and wafts, over the customary twang and the rhythmic beat of the hand drums.

Comparisons with Wardruna are commonplace and quite apt but in their music I also detect the influence of Freya Aswynn and the late Icelandic founder of the Ásatrú Association Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson who also recorded the Eddas. Those influences, and particularly of Freya Aswynn whose Leaves of Yggdrasil which covered some of the same stanzas of the Eddas and aided the pagan revival, can be heard on the first track and the opening incantatory moments of 'Sal Sér Hon Standa (Völuspá, 64-66)' as well as 'Surtr Ferr Sunnan (Völuspá, 52,57)' where over ambient synth male and female vocals merge before the flute leads a merry dance over a quickened rhythm.

What they share is a veneration of nature, spirits and gods. Some of the music was recorded outside in the wild and it's most apparent in the location recordings featuring bird calls, lapping waves and fire crackles which permeate some of the songs. Storm sounds open 'Bróðurbana Sínum (Hávamál, 89-91)' where Natalya Pakhalenko emotes over a brooding atmosphere created from synths, snare and jew harp twang. There's a restrained calmness furnished with throat singing and flute, as voices mass in ritualised intonations before it explodes, climaxing with a sound more associated with metal surging on a blackened wave of guitars, wails and growls.

Fimbulvinter is appended with two bonus tracks offering a Nordic folk type sound. Voices converge in chant on 'The Last War', as recorder weaves a spirited melody over pagan drums and jew harp twang, while 'The Last War' closes this immersive album with a joyous celebratory sound with hushed chants lead onwards by rolling hollow rhythms and spirited recorder melody.

I listened to this in the snow walking along country lanes and I swear I walked taller, as if walking with the Gods. This is a magical record which I missed first time around. Listening now, not too long after the release of Odin's Raven Magic an orchestral album from Sigur Ros based on a poem which was once assumed to be part of the Eddas, Fimbulvinter sounds timely and ageless too. Nordic folk music is getting quite a lot of attention at the moment but Fimbulvinter sounds authentic and invigorating, immersed in nature and mysticism based on the universal themes contained with the Eddas. It's an album well worth a listen. Fimbulvinter is available again in a second edition on CD on Cold Spring