This is the second album with keyboardist Håkon Vinje, and the first with new drummer Iver Sandøy. Håkon joined the band in 2017 and recorded the previous album E, but I think Utgard is the first album where he could impact the band's sound and show his potential. Furthermore, both Håkon and Iver also do the clean vocals, which is generally associated with the quieter and more melodic parts, while Grutle's growl is reserved for the more furious parts. As the title of the album suggests, the concept at the heart of the lyrics is the world of the giants in Norse mythology: Utgard is the realm where they live. The first song on the album “Fires in the Dark” begins with a powerful Viking chorus reciting a verse from the Eddic poem Voluspa about the primordial giant Ymir, and folk metal vibes beautifully alternate with psychedelic atmospheres; the text also has philosophical overtones. The second song “Jettegryta” starts with a typical Enslaved riff, almost in the Frost-style, but after three minutes of black metal you find yourself in the middle of a prog environment with a keyboard solo, only to return to black metal again. For me this is the best song on the album, but actually all the songs change and evolve all the time.
Bottom line, if you really feel like listening to something new and different, Utgard is definitely something for you, but Utgard is actually an absolute masterpiece.
Utgard was released on October 2, 2020 via Nuclear Blast in different formats, amongst which a limited edition 12” vinyl available in eight colours.
Ivar Bjørnson: Guitars, Guitars (acoustic), Keyboards, Effects, Vocals (backing) (track 1)
Grutle Kjellson: Vocals, Bass, Keyboards
Arve Isdal: Guitars (lead), Guitars (acoustic), Vocals (backing) (track 1)
Håkon Vinje: Keyboards, Piano, Vocals (clean)
Iver Sandøy: Drums, Percussion, Keyboards, Effects, Vocals (clean)
Text by Herjann