Review Summary: A worthy successor to Forlatt, and a continuation of Vali's musical genius.
It's been nine years since Forlatt
first appeared, floating up as if from a dream. And in that time, Vali has earned a spot in the highest echelons of modern neofolk, standing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Ulver, Empyrium, and October Falls. Forlatt
is rightly regarded as a masterpiece, an album that perfectly weaves the subtle majesty of nature with the breadth of human emotion. I've listened to Forlatt
endlessly since I discovered it, and as the years passed and the silence continued, I feared we'd never hear from Vali again. Imagine my joy when Skogslandskap
was announced and finally released. But as excited as I was, there was a fear that Forlatt
would be an impossible standard to reach again, let alone overcome.
But as soon the first notes of Nordavindens Klagesang
rang out from my speakers, I knew my fear was unfounded. Vali's complex fingerpicking sparkles like sunlight through a forest canopy, while the supporting string and wind instruments caress the ear like an autumn breeze. Where Forlatt
sounded dark and murky, the production on Skogslandskap
is pristine and vibrant. Every instrument resonates clearly and in synergy with the others, painting vivid landscapes in the mind's eye. If you have the equipment, I wholeheartedly recommend listening to the vinyl version, which brings Vali's music to life to the fullest extent.
The progression of Vali's song-writing talent is also immediately apparent. The guitar work on Forlatt
was incredible for its combination of atmosphere and technicality, but Vali has matured since then, playing some truly impressive fingerstyle arpeggios (see Sevjedraaper
) and bringing a fresh classical influence that lends the album an aura of grandeur (see Mellom Grantraer
and Dystre Naturbilder
). And while the album primarily consists of shorter songs, they still manage to cover vast musical terrain thanks to intricate songwriting and sheer emotional intensity: Himmelens Groenne Arr
is masterful in its subtlety, using short piano, flute and guitar melodies until they cascade in unison with such beauty that it brings tears to my eyes. Stein Og Bark
is another highlight of the album, with its enchanting atmosphere and stirring chorus.
Nine years separates Forlatt
, and while this is undeniably Vali, it's a fundamentally different experience. Rather than retrace his footsteps and create Forlatt II
, Vali has branched out into a deeper, more sophisticated aesthetic. Where Forlatt
had a small set of very distinct songs, Skogslandskap
is a concept album, detailing a journey through the northern woods from dusk until morning, and it truly excels when listened to in its entirety. From the jubilant yearning of Langt I Det Fjerne
to the churning gloom of Lokkende Lyder
, the 15 tracks unfold with exacting pace, creating a deeply satisfying experience: by the time the final uplifting notes of Morgengry
disappear, you'll be eager to venture back into Skogslandskap's
world once again.
If Vali continues crafting such awe-inspiring music, I won't mind waiting 9 more years for his third effort. Time has done nothing to erode his mastery of music, and the creativity flowing throughout Skogslandskap
solidifies his place as one of the most talented neofolk musicans active today.