Fredlös - Fredlös review
|Release date:||February 2023|
01. Våt Varm Jord
Ever since the emergence of the mighty Skyclad, folk and metal have been good friends, and it is really up to the listener to decide which kind of folk they prefer with their metal, or which style of metal they prefer with their folk. Fredlös is a new folk metal band, with a love for doomy soundscapes and blackened outbursts.
The most well-known member of Fredlös is Alex Hellid of Entombed fame, but the music here is far away from the sound of Entombed. Different songs on Fredlös bring to mind different bands, from Lumsk, Huldre, and Myrkur to Primordial, Sólstafir, and Trees Of Eternity. One of the greatest assets of the album is how diverse the songwriting is, while always falling under the large umbrella of “dark folk metal”. The band sounds very convincing in the more direct and aggressive tracks, like “Fredlös” and “Uppror”, but also excels in creating a melancholic and brooding atmosphere in the doomier cuts, such as “Missväxt” and “Undergång”. The instrumentation is lush and captivating, with the use of violin and other traditional instruments, especially on “Otto” and the closer, “Requiem”. The voice of Liv Hope is emotive and angelic, and really shines throughout the album.
The brew of metal and folk is very well-balanced, which is the exact thing that many folk metal bands get wrong, in my opinion. A very important element towards that success is the production, which elevates the role of the vocalists; aside from Liv Hope, there are also male vocals, as well as the guest appearance of Månegarm’s Erik Grawsiö singing on “Våt Varm Jord” and “Fredlös”, and Britta Zetterström doing kulning on “Requiem”. All the instruments find their rightful place in the mix and the layers of sounds make for an enthralling listen. I have read reviews arguing that Fredlös needed some trimming, because it is one-hour long, but I personally don’t hear it at all. In fact, I don’t hear a single thing that should have been taken out. The album flows beautifully and leaves me mesmerized after every listen.
The lyrical aspect is also quite interesting and fairly original. Instead of writing about Vikings, Thor and Odin, and other Scandinavian clichés that have been done to death, Fredlös recounts the difficulties, injustice, and hardships faced by common people in Sweden during the Middle Ages, due to religious oppression. The lyrics are in Swedish, something that prevents many people from fully experiencing the album’s concept and scope; I would like to know what is being said on “Deus”, for instance. However, it seems to me that the lyrics are sang with more passion and in a more personal way, exactly because they are in Swedish. At the time of writing this review, there are four wonderfully cinematic videos online that feature the lyrics in both Swedish and English (“Våt Varm Jord”, “Otto”, “Farsot”, and “Fredlös”).
Fredlös is an exceptionally well-crafted debut by a band that hopefully has a great future ahead and is not just a one-off project. Folk metal, death doom metal of the ‘90s without the growls, black metal, the epic feel of Viking-era Bathory, and even post-punk have all come together on an album that should be included in the list of best debuts, come the end of the year.
“Tårar väter magert bröd (Tears moisten meagre bread)
Offerblod, svart död (Sacrificial blood, black death)
Vita ben i mättad jord (Whitened bones in blood soaked soil)
Ingen tröst i klerkers ord (No comfort in the words of clerics)
Synden kräva blod (Earthly sin demands blood)”
||Written on 16.03.2023 by|
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