Given the widespread impact that Ulver‘s seminal album Kveldssanger had on the collective black metal consciousness, it surprises me how few acts have attempted the same style of folkloric neoclassical folk music. There have, of course, been plenty of classical-guitar-driven projects, often put forth by moonlighting black metal musicians, but there always seems to be something missing; vocals in the case of Norway’s Váli, darker atmospheres in the case of Germany’s Neun Welten, and sheer quality in the case of most other acts. Byrdi, from Norway, have all of these ingredients in hand, however, and that makes their debut album Eventyr something to behold.
Moments into the opener, ‘Vardauger’, the ghost of Kveldssanger is convincingly summoned. Moody classical guitar is accompanied by sombre layered vocals and the fawning tones of violin. This is the basic template for the album as a whole—with the addition of subtle percussion where necessary, and some beautifully situated flute—and so our hopes rest upon the compositional quality which unfolds.
The initial songs present a predictably Norwegian atmosphere, ominous amidst the mists of legend. Fortunately—and here’s something I demand from all good albums of this ilk—a deliberate sense of variety ensues with alternative modes and arrangements coming into play. For example, on the song ‘Fanden og Kvitekrist’ we find a more upbeat pace that carries with it a more mischievous melody. This sense of mischief is something that I have long found to be a hallmark of Norwegian music—this troll-like aspect which perverts pure darkness, illuminating the musical landscape just enough so that we might see the fairytale creatures lurking in the corners.
Byrdi (which translates to ‘burden’ from Norwegian) don’t merely flirt with pre-Christian imagery; their Heathenism is genuine, and with that comes a true understanding of the breadth and vitality of the mythology. Whilst many less sincere acts might focus on the mighty Norse gods of legend, or the trickster wights of local lore, Byrdi depict the full canon of strange beings: elves, gods, dwarves, etin, and ancestors alike. This comes across in the music as well as the artwork, which is a beautiful, mystical piece by French artist David Thiérrée. The care and attention given to the final product is obvious. It almost feels like a religious offering—the first in their career so far.
The album in its totality is diverse: dark and light; upbeat and sombre; mystical and heartfelt. The instrumentation is diverse but not too eclectic to detract from the cohesion. Whilst the overall style might most closely resemble the aforementioned work by Ulver, there are compositions reminiscent of other ’90s albums by the likes of Otyg and Wongraven. Fans of these acts are unlikely to be disappointed with what Byrdi have offered on Eventyr, whether that offering be to the holy powers, the mighty ancestors, or just we who appreciate hymns to an older, more natural age.
04) En Fullblods Byrde
05) Fanden og Kvitekrist