Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik – Hugsjá
‘Hugsjá’ is the second collaborative album between Ivar Bjørnson (Enslaved) & Einar Selvik (Wardruna). Both are legendary figures of Norwegian Black Metal, but have come together to do something entirely different. ‘Hugsjá’ is stylistically very diverse, so trying to pigeonhole this album into a genre is not happening. Throughout the album there are elements of Nordic Folk music, Post Rock and Darkwave. The album has a very cinematic production, sounding like it could be influenced by classic film scores. This is no stretch considering Wardruna’s music has been used in the TV show Vikings. ‘Hugsjá’ boasts an eclectic array of instruments, modern and traditional. There are plenty of strings, horns, percussion and even guitars and subtle touches of electronics make there way into the mix. All of it topped off with the majestic clean baritone vocals in an operatic style.
From start to finish, the album is full of highlights. From the off, the title track sweeps you off your feet with its grandiose strings and baroque influenced melodies, becoming something of a mission statement of what is to follow. In the middle of the album, ‘Nattseglar’ builds and builds to an epic climax, reminiscent of something Mogwai might do if they traded in their loud guitars and synths for orchestral instruments. Not every track has a grand, cinematic approach though. The album is well balanced with slightly more low key offerings. ‘Nordvegen’ is the closest you’ll get to a simple Folk ballad, whilst the fantastic ‘Nytt Land’ is suitably melancholic and a fantastic slow burner. ‘Wulthur’ takes on an ethereal approach adding in what sounds like a saxophone. Throughout it’s hour long running time, the album is always engaging, with so many changes in instrumentation and compositional approach that there is always something exciting around each corner.
Whilst there are no blastbeats, tremolo guitars or shrieking vocals, open minded Black Metal fans should still find plenty to appreciate in what is clearly a passion project between two highly accomplished musicians. And even if you don’t listen to Metal, this album should open up these musicians to fans of other genres. Sonically, ‘Hugsjá’ is slightly closer to the sonic landscapes of Wardruna, but long time Enslaved fans really should check this album out. In particular, Ivar Bjørnson has been a driving compositional force in Enslaved from day one, and it is fantastic to see him take on such a daring project outside of his comfort zone. If anything it proves just how good his vision for creating musically rich and progressive music really is. 8/10.
Words: Chris “Frenchie” French
‘Hugsjá’ is out now on CD, LP and DD through By Norse Music.