Gremnir - Broken
Released off label 2022
This review was commissioned through Ko-fi. However, it bears no weight on the score or decision. All reviews are written from an unbiased standpoint.
I went to the theater just the other week to watch The Northman and it was absolutely superb. The wild nature of the film intertwining mythology with gorgeous cinematography had me at the edge of my seat throughout the whole ride. However, when my wife and I came back home I felt a hole in my heart. And that hole basically told me that I wanted more Viking material to dive into. Of course, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla was on the table for me to play, but I also wasn’t in the mood to get into a thirty-some-plus hour game that I might not finish. I wanted something similar to The Northman experience; a short bout of entertainment that I could easily come back to whenever I felt like it. That has manifested in my listening to and analyzing Gremnîr’s album “Broken”.
The queer, neopagan folk artist and music educator based in the East Bay Area of San Francisco utilizes Kargyraa throat singing, primal bodhrán percussion, and neoclassical cello to produce original fantasy ballads and musical rituals. He hopes his music sends listeners on vivid, dream-like experiences; that his live performances will connect with listeners just as the old Scandinavian bards and skalds could. On a deeper level, he wishes to help the audience revisit their heritage and understand themselves more.
“Broken” starts off in a wonderous fashion. Utilizing the previously mentioned Kargyraa throat singing (and later aside with dual vocals), ‘Wyrd Unharrowed’ serves as a bit of an opening ritual to the rest of the album. The ambiance of nature, what sounds like a forest located near wailing waters, is the only other sound found on the song and it instantly transported me to the ninth century. This was followed by a nine-minute and fourteen-second tale titled ‘Sultr’ which is another stellar and mesmerizing piece. Clean and whispered vocals and growling, throaty vocals give way to well-paced drums and moody cellos. Though it does last nearly a little over nine-minutes, I had so much fun listening to this song on each of my subsequent plays that it only felt as if half-the-time had passed by the time the song was over.
Gremnîr falters, however, on ‘Of Demons and Goddesses’. While it’s an impressive nearly eleven-minute ballad, I felt as if Gremnîr’s vocal tone wasn’t nearly as emotive as on the previous two songs. The acoustic numbers are decent, and the story is lengthy and impressive, but I felt as if it could have been told with more charisma and passion. At times, I felt as if his lyrical delivery sounded like a pastor at a local church reciting a passage from the bible. Rather than telling a tale, it’s more like Gremnîr was reading off bulletin points.
Nonetheless, Gremnîr picks right back up with ‘The Hobbling Horror / Crazy Jake’. With thumping percussion, vocals that echo in the background, and phenomenal work on the cello once more, it was an automatic winner for me from the get-go. I also enjoyed the lyrical delivery on this song much more than the previous as Gremnîr spoke with some degree of expression and, dare I say, angst.
The last four songs on the album belong to one long tale titled ‘Galdr’. Most of what you’ll hear on these songs is what you’ve heard previously on the album; further ballads of neopagan goodness that will get you pumped, or in a good mood to say the very least. The only song out of this quadrilogy that I have to complain about it ‘Galdr II – Meditation’. Yeah, I get it; it’s supposed to be a minimalist song with a couple of field recordings in the background. But being monologued at for a little over eleven minutes just didn’t sit right with me. Perhaps you’ll find this relaxing, but I prefer my meditative pieces without voice.
So, I sought something to fill the void that The Northman left, and I found it with Gremnîr’s “Broken”. The only place I can see need for Gremnîr to improve as of right now are his spoken word pieces; the monotone approach Gremnîr sometimes takes is less than impressive and can certainly be improved. However, when the drums are being banged and his throat singing comes out does Gremnîr breathe life into everything around it – including myself. Seven-and-a-half out of ten.Jun 06 2022
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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