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Gåte - Nord

by Mark Machlay at 01 February 2022, 5:50 AM

On the full follow-up to the EP “Til Nord”, Norwegian folk rockers GÅTE have expanded the tracklist on “Nord” from 5 to 10, dropped a track that was featured on the EP, and seemingly concluded their acoustic era if their official statement is to be believed. The group was founded by violinist and keyboardist Sveinung Sundli, who recruited his younger sister Gunnhild to sing. With Sveinung’s violin and his sister’s unique folk singing technique – called “kveding” – their sound was firmly rooted in traditional music but added bass, drums and electric guitar to both complement and contrast their style. After two self-titled EP’s in 2001 and 2002 and their debut full-length “Jygir” in 2002, the band earned massive recognition in their home country. They won the Norwegian Grammy (“Spellemannprisen”) for best new band and were a hit on the music charts as they began work on their second album “Iselilja”, released in 2004. However, as they started gaining international attention, the young sister, Gunnhild, explored other successful career paths such as acting and the band unfortunately would go on hiatus. Despite the hiatus, their live album “Liva” released in 2006 would still chart because of massive national success. A small reunion took place in 2009-2010 with a small concert and mini-tour of Norway before announcing their “final farewell”.

Then, out of the blue, GÅTE announced a 2017 tour followed by their third album “Svevn” in 2018. Now, the band is less interested in comfortably resting on their laurels, but instead is eager to break new artistic ground and flex their artistic muscles in a fascinating new path, introduced with their previous EP, “Til Nord”. They are diving deeper in the rich musical pedigree of their country by revisiting some of their old tunes along with a creating one or two especially for the project. The band has added an archaic percussion style and used new acoustic instrumentation while singer Gunnhild has stripped a bit of the technical complexity of her singing style and informed more emphasis on folk attitude and expression. Stylistically, the group has shifted from the energetic folk rock they are famous for innovating and moved into a darker, more intimate, down-to-earth, Norse-centric folk expression.

I had already reviewed GÅTE’s first foray into this new acoustic style on their previous EP back in July of 2021 and must have missed their expansion on their acoustic format, but I was too happy to dive back into this epic folk exploration. The album begins with “Solfager og Ormekongen” – a song based on the tale of Solfager and the Worm King, a triumphant tale of lust and eternal love which sets an powerful stage of slow, epic layering of pagan elements and haunting vocals provided by the inimitable Gunnhild Sundli. It’s rollicking good time, but they quickly go softer and oddly more primal with Gunnhild adding some grit to her voice on “Svik” featuring heavy chanting and rhythmic layered drumming in the background with subtle melodic phrases provided by the violin. It should be noted that there is great attention to detail on this album and they have succeeded admirably in their seemingly brief experimentation. I say this lamentingly as I thoroughly enjoyed the hypnotic “Hemnarsverdet” once again, as well as the new tracks – the tambourine and hurdy gurdy sounding, yet bouncy “Sigurd og Trollbrura” is especially captivating – while still appreciating the mood without loving all the tracks, such as the regrettably repetitive instrumental interlude “Talande Tunger” for the feeling they were trying to present.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Solfager og Ormekongen
2. Svik
3. Hemnarsverdet
4. Horpa
5. Talande Tunger
6. Rideboll og Gullborg
7. Sigurd og Trollbrura
8. Kjærleik
9. Jomfrua
10. Sjåaren
Gunnhild Sundli - Vocals
Magnus Børmark - Guitar, Vocals, percussion
Sveinung Sundli – Hardingfele, Violin, Pedal Organ, Vocals, and Percussion
Jon Even Schärer – Drums
Mats Paulsen - Bass
Record Label: Indie Recordings


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