Siberian dark folk collective Nytt Land‘s new record Ritual is out now through Napalm Records, and it is their seventh full length regaling us with tales of the dark mythology and folk tales of the ancient North. At first, you’ll feel a lot of similarity to acts like Wardruna and Heilung, but look deeper and you’ll find this far too simplistic a comparison.
The opening title track slowly hums into focus, with croaking ravens and sweeping sounds building into tribal percussion and shamanistic chanting. A haunting female vocal takes over, intoning ancient mysticisms while the groaning chants continue. It draws you instantly to a crackling fire deep in a frozen forest a thousand years ago, where olden rituals are performed to keep dark spirits at bay, or maybe even to draw them in.
A number of tracks obviously draw from Nordic traditions as well as Russian, such as the haunting rumble of The Fires of Ragnarok or Dead Man’s Dance. What slowly becomes the draw is the interplay of throat singing and cleaner vocals from Natasha and Anatoly Pakhalenko, and how different it makes this music sound. There are a number of bands or groups trying to do this kind of Nordic folk these days, but I’ve never come across this vocal styling before, and it really helps to create an authentic atmosphere.
Nytt Land’s work is that of hypnotising ancient beauty…
It isn’t just a Nordic tradition that makes up the inspiration here though; the tale of a Siberian native tribe called Khanty, and their guardian spirits which the song chants protective incantations to, is explored in the gorgeous U-Gra, and it proves to be probably the album’s most evocative moment. That might be closely challenged by the eerie tribal atmospherics of Gróttasöngr, in which Natasha‘s vocal efforts are utterly peerless. Svartravn is the tale of a dying warrior who recounts his heroic deeds to a raven on a battlefield and introduces strings to the ensemble which really adds a lot to the already lush soundscape, while the more reserved and gloomy Blood Of The North brings this album to a satisfyingly heathen close.
I’ve often found this style of music to be particularly relaxing; I can sink into a chair and be transported back to a simpler and more feral time when none of the modern world’s terrible trappings are in place. At one with stone and tree, snow and ice, spirit and fire, Nytt Land‘s work is that of hypnotising ancient beauty, a visceral awakening of genetic memory and an affirmation of the melancholic traditions that once defined us as a species. It’s probably something we could do to remember once in a while, and Ritual is a perfect place to start.
Scribed by: Sandy Williamson