Review Summary: A different shade of folk metal.
Since its early-1990s humble origins, folk metal has come a long way. In all honesty, Skyclad was its only representative at the time. The folk metal that we've grown to know and love (at least part of it) today is quite different; it was popularized by bands like Ensiferum, Finntroll, and Eluveite and leans more toward black and death metal with melodic folk elements.
Given that it lacks jovial melodies and is in no respect upbeat, calling Fredlos
just a folk metal album would be deceptive or even shallow. There are definitely lots of folk influences, but for starters, the Swedish outfit plays a brand of doom metal that includes black metal elements and is reminiscent of the doom/death genre from the 1990s. Considering that former Entombed axeman Alex Hellid is one of the contributors, this is hardly surprising. However, this is not Hellid's vessel; the songs are at the forefront, maintaining the listener's interest throughout the album's 60 minutes. Although Fredlos don't rely heavily on tempo changes to create dynamics, they do so with the help of the distorted guitars and the nyckelharpa, a traditional Swedish instrument that sounds like a cross between a violin and a hurdy-gurdy. You will also find black and Viking metal riffs scattered throughout, along with a depressing, post-punk atmosphere.
If none of the aforementioned has already caught your attention, Liv Hope's voice undoubtedly will. Despite her technical proficiency, her style is soulful and largely draws on the album's theme, which is none other than the difficulties faced by common Swedish people in the Middle Ages. So if the album's cover caught your eye, it actually depicts issues like social injustice, hardship, and death, among other things. Liv takes the lead because of her powerful performance, which wonderfully complements the nyckelharpa's mournful tone.
If you read the (translated from Swedish) lyrics, the entire record has a cinematic and dramatic feel to it. Although having a remarkable sense of melody, Fredlos
undoubtedly puts you in a contemplative mindset and demands your attention; yet, it is not an easy listen like some of the light-hearted folk you may know. Furthermore, it could occasionally seem repetitive and samey. Nonetheless, it is atmospheric, gripping, and beautiful; and for that, it merits multiple listens.