Pagan metal band :Nodfyr:’s debut Eigenheid has been nearly a decade in the making, as Joris and Niels formed the project in Gelderlands, the Netherlands back in 2011 with the intention of capturing the history and culture of their native region. While Niels would depart in 2014, Joris recruited two new members in 2015 and material has slowly trickled out in the form of the In een andere tijd EP and last year’s “Gelre, Gelre” single which is featured on the album. Bands that channel their pagan and heathen origins through metal often can fall under a lot of different sub-genres, with :Nodfyr: moving between doom, heavy metal, folk, and even some black metal as they both look inwards and teleport listeners to a time long past.
While folk metal and all its variations can often be focused on capturing joyous and high energy music with faster tempos, :Nodfyr: takes a darker and much more methodical approach with some notable exceptions on songs like “Driekusman”. This is noticeable right from the start of “Mijn oude volk” which expands outwards slowly with ethereal melodies that weave in and out of a much heavier, lumbering base. The sound here falls somewhere between doom and black metal with its somber sheen and aggressive undertones, but when the tempo picks up slightly there are also folk metal and some of the gallop and epically inclined nature of heavy metal on display. At times some moments remind me a bit of fellow Ván Records band Dautha from Sweden, though :Nodfyr: heads in different overall directions. For this release the group has brought in some guests like Folkcorn and De Ridders van Gelre who specialize in music and history of the region, and this particularly shows on the aforementioned “Driekusman” which feels like it’s teleporting you back to several centuries ago. These touches give Eigenheid a more authentic tone than some of the other folk/pagan metal bands out there, and the combination of the more aggressive warriorlike cadences and introspective, dark melodies make the songs absorbing from beginning to end. Admittedly some of the extended slower sections start to drag slightly, but it never fully detracts from the listening experience and as a whole the album is able to truly feel like it can transport you back to the medieval time period in the Gelderlands.
One of the most prominent elements on Eigenheid besides the sweeping melodies is Joris’ stunning vocal work. You may be familiar with some of his previous performances in Heidevolk or Wederganger, but he truly reaches another level with :Nodfyr:. Joris has a lower baritone range that has an operatic quality as it booms outwards over the instrumentation, and with his somber and emotive singing it also brings some of the classic gothic influences in metal to mind. The other two members contribute backing vocals and this results in some melancholic yet beautiful melodies that really helps to set the material apart. Another guest that the band brought in is Tineke Roseboom, whose higher range adds to the atmosphere when she appears.
A few moments may drag slightly but as a whole, you can tell that the decade spent crafting these ideas has resulted in some truly stunning moments that feels like they’re authentically capturing the culture and spirit of past centuries. There’s a darker and more introspective slant compared to what some might expect of music labeled as folk or pagan metal, but give this one some time to sink in and I suspect you’ll come away happy you did. Now hopefully it won’t be another decade before we get a follow-up, I’m excited to see where :Nodfyr: chooses to go from here. Eigenheid is available from Ván Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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