Label: Faravid Recordings
Better known as the singer of RAUBTIER, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Pär Hulkoff has also been working on his solo project HULKOFF since 2017. The band’s debut album has been met with reasonable success and now here comes the second release – “Pansarfolk.” HULKOFF has made an interesting compromise (much like SABATON and OPETH before them) in the ever-existing debate between native languages that better lend themselves to folk metal and English to focus on listeners’ lyrical comprehension: the band is releasing two versions of the album, a Swedish edition (Svitjod) and an English (Vinland) edition. Both will be released on September 25th, 2020, through Faravid Recordings.
The first track, “Martialisk” / ”Martial,” is actually the best description for this album I can give. It’s a sort of Vikingy, fighting folk metal, full of fervour and a primal passion that comes from the woods of northern Sweden. The folky bits often flirt with country, which is an interesting take on folk metal, but it does work. HULKOFF’s notoriously barky vocals help to create a more feral atmosphere, one that almost invites you to battle. “Kung Wada” / ”King Wada” is a really fast-paced track about what I presume is an old Norse king, and besides the array of folk instrumentation such as the bagpipes and a cow’s horn, it also features some clear classic heavy metal influences.
A mouth harp opens “Hamingja,” but the song then delves into some fairly thrashy riffs while Hulkoff sings about an almost existential Nordic story. “Hildisvin” is one of the most interesting songs on the album, featuring a vocal guest appearance from Månegarm’s Erik Grawsiö. What follows is a somber song, “Domen Över Död Man” / ”Over Dead Man,” that features the famous part of the Poetic Edda that most metalheads and lovers of Nordic folk will know from WARDRUNA’s “Helvegen.” It’s, however, not delivered in such a touching way, although certain morose overtones can be felt throughout the song.
“Rid Hårt” / Ride Hard” is one of the songs that is most reminiscent of the debut album Kven, especially in the first half. It also makes me wonder what exactly the band wants us to ride, but we’ll say it’s horses for the purpose of this review. In the middle there’s a short power metal guitar solo before the chorus that definitely helps keep the song interesting. The track also features the fascinating Nordic folk instrument, nyckelharpa, played by Mathias Gyllengahm, that adds the necessary folky touch.
“Ensamvargen” / ”Lone Wolf” goes directly into more country sounds and starts like any other Texan yeehaw anthem, which absolutely will throw you off when you’re first listening to this album. All you have to do is imagine a hard, bearded Swedish woodsman instead of a blonde, overly-smiley Texan girl and you understand this song fully. It’s not exactly bad, but it is quite a bit too country for my liking. Luckily, “Pansarfolk” picks up and finishes strongly with easily one of the best songs on the album, “Varjagen” / “Varangian.” It’s fast, catchy, and everything that also made a lot of people like myself really enjoy HULKOFF’s debut.
“Pansarfolk” is a really interesting album and a cool take on folk metal. I do wish it was a bit less influenced by country, which is a bit of a departure from “Kven,” but nonetheless it has quite a few really fun, catchy and very folky songs. HULKOFF is definitely one of the folkiest folk metal bands out there just because of how many fairly niche folk instruments, such as the jouhikko and nyckelharpa, the band uses. By releasing the album in two languages, it’s clear this is a band that wants to reach out to its fans globally and “Pansarfolk” is a good step in that direction.
Rating: 8/10, 4 stars
3. Kung Wada
6. Domen Över Död Man
7. Rid Hårt
8. Hephtalitens Klagan
- King Wada
- Hildisvin (Hogs of War)
- Over Dead Man
- Ride Hard
- Lament of the Hephtalite
- Lone Wolf