Dark Nordic folk artist Nanna Barslev has been a feature of the scene for quite some while, previously fronting acts such as folk black metal band Huldre and folk band Asynje, but has now decided the time is right to come up with her debut album as a solo act. Her career to date as revolved around the interpretation of Nordic folklore and mythology, with her claiming to have written many songs based on old Nordic spells, and she’s appeared at several Viking medieval festivals, and even at Wacken … the mind boggles!!
Title track Lysbaerer (‘Carrier of Light’) is a reference to the celebration of the sun and the moon, which light up the dark and the changing seasons. Nanna invites us into a world of dark and light in both nature and human nature, and she does so using a voice which is both enchanting and mesmeric though, alas, as she’s communicating in Norse, she could be singing the periodic table as I don’t have the first clue what she’s telling me. However, her range of vocal delivery, backed by some very atmospheric music, played on a variety of old Nordic instruments, on which she appears to be more than competent, makes for a very compelling, atmospheric listen. In fact, it’s her voice and her expressive delivery which is one of the main features of this album, as she moves across a tonal range which includes ‘Nordic underworld growls and whispers.’
Opener Skjoldmo (‘Shieldmaiden’) is something of a tribal dance with pounding drums and droning instruments and is a story about women who stood together at a time when tensions were rising. Drones and drumbeat precede the voice on Mod Vrede (‘Towards Peace’), a piece composed on a Moraharpa, an olde Swedish key fiddle, and a Duval drum, and is a pagan protection chant uttered to ‘shield yourself against the anger of others.’
There’s little in the way of traditional singing and song structures on this album, as most of the pieces of music centre around what appears to be either a chant or a recitation, though the slightly more upbeat Runebundet comes close, with singing rather than chanting, as does the more traditional sounding Sunna Sol, where Nanna is joined by several other female voices in the background.
Askr (‘Soldiers’) begins as a chant and sounds like a prayer, with the voice pitched higher and quite insistent, as though the singer is asking for something. There’s very minimal backing on this track but, with the drone playing behind, this makes it even more atmospheric. The seven minute Jagtmarker (‘Hunting Ground’) opens with a horn and a voice resembling a call to prayer, and sounds somewhat like an incantation rather than a song. It’s the longest track on the album and the one with the least vocals. At one point, with the backing on this track, it could almost be Tangerine Dream meeting Lunatic Soul. There’s also no singing on Sten; rather, with its melancholy vibe, it sounds more like a pleading for something with the occasional spoken word over the backing. There’s a slow build up on a drone on Rhimfaxe with the music becoming more insistent as the track unfolds. On what, again, sounds like a prayer, her voice is slightly deeper here.
Nanna states her wish is for the listener to be able to relate to ‘the feelings and themes on the album and be carefully led through the misty fields and the sunny meadows.’ Whether she’s succeeded depends on your empathy with what she’s singing about and, if you do, Lysbaerer is a fine example of Danish Viking folk to worship the sun and moon to.