The Flight of Sleipnir has always been two bands: the studio members, and the live members. On album, the project has always been represented by the work of Clayton Cushman and David Csicsely, but the live lineup has consistently revolved around former Acheronian Dirge members Dave Borrusch and Justin Siegler. These four have been sharing a stage for two decades now, but with Skadi, they are fully embodying the concept of their namesake, the eight-legged steed of Odin, and never before have they carried both the wisdom and poetic grace so well.
I have certainly been no stranger to this band; former band mates toured with their old band and other friends sang their praises. Familiarizing myself with past albums, Lore in particular, I can certainly say I have enjoyed what they have previously put out into the world. I can also say with the same confidence that they have reached a level of maturity and quality in musicianship on Skadi that separates them from anything they have previously done through a solid blend of heavy riffs and vocals with pure psychedelic rock elements. That aspect of a well-connected live band’s ability to simply jam, to feed off of each other and create something that can only exist in that moment, comes out throughout the compositions of this album. It is a familiarity that only happens when four become one, and this is exactly what they do with Skadi.
The first track, “Awaken,” reveals a bluesy guitar and excellent riffs, as well as tremolo picking that builds on itself until the intensity becomes overwhelming. The track suddenly slows down into a steady drum beat and organ eventually, allowing the listener some cool-down time before proceeding into the next piece. At ten minutes long, “Awaken” has plenty of time to breathe and let the different elements fully reveal themselves, whether it is incredibly intense or passively docile. A song such as the instrumental track, “Voices,” however, offers a moment to fully focus on the softer sections, and it is this dynamic which makes Skadi an exceptional album. Akin to groups like Neun Welten, the acoustic guitars and stringed instruments reveal that this could easily become a completely different band.
That fluidity is what completely engulfs me as a listener, for my interest in folk, metal, and hard rock is all blended into one. I could follow this with Boston, Windhand, and Tenhi, and it would completely make sense. This almost makes it cool to listen to someone like Eric Clapton, as long as you follow it with a solid riff to get you banging your head again. But don’t let any of those names worry you; as “Falcon White” shows, this is very much a metal band, with howling vocals and guitars that perfectly blend doom and black elements. All this may seem odd, until you remember that all four were formerly in extreme black/death metal bands, and simultaneously Pink Floyd is a huge influence.
Skadi is an album to get lost in—a journey created to the smallest detail, largely by two minds who do everything from producing the music to creating the incredible art nouvea covers which are worthy of attention in themselves. So many things make Skadi stick out, from the unique percussion of “Falcon White” to the start of the final track, to album stand-out “Earthen Shroud.” The organs—hell, the whole feel of the song—are so genuinely “psych rock” in atmosphere that I want to wear some bell bottoms and put on some Jefferson Airplane. The guitar work itself is so absurdly impressive from the riffs, which are endless and never disappoint, to the mind-numbing solos. This may be their sixth album, but a number of things differentiate it from albums of the past. This time, the Flight of Sleipnir took three years to release Skadi rather than following their previous patterns of releasing year-by-year. The album of course features the full band now as well as longer tracks as well. Knowing that the “new” guys will have even more of an impact on the next release almost concerns me with just how good of an album they can make, for Skadi is nearly perfect. The Flight of Sleipnir have proven they can create tunes that are quality and timeless, and in a just world, which this world is certainly not, Skadi would be seen as a triumphant release worthy of respect and admiration from all fans of metal and rock music in general.