With an extreme metal scene spanning as far back as the 80s via the groundbreaking works of Bathory and into the 90s with Entombed and Dissection, Sweden is no stranger to its artistic inhabitants exploring the darker worlds of music and showcasing that darkness through sonic expression. But while a majority of the bands have put a focus on mainly Satanic or Horror themed concepts, there is a collection of artists who choose to stay close to the Nordic roots of their homeland and enter a world that has since been passed by today’s society, and in my opinion, nobody is doing it better than Draugurinn.
Debuting in 2010 with Dauðadá, Draugurinn has since been creating some of the most hypnotizing music I’ve ever heard. A dynamic focus on shamanic ritualism, dark ambiance and foreboding atmosphere gives the music a very ancient energy that puts the listener deep within the entrancing vibrations of dark pagan rituals under a starless sky as the ceremonial fires illuminate shadows against the walls of caverns of those dancing to the pulse of the shaman’s drum.
The latest offering, Minningar úr undirheimum, is the best example of this spiritual vibration. Composed with the intention to be a live ritual performance in 2020 that was unfortunately canceled because of the global pandemic, it has instead been given life as the 6th album in Draugurinn’s already exquisite discography. Minningar úr undirheimum, meaning memories of the underworld, is an album that fully encompasses it’s title’s meaning. Taking on a very deep and meditative atmosphere, the ebbs and flows of this record transport you into a murky state of being. A trance like state of comfort within the dark rather than a fear of it. The harrowing chants acting as the spirits of the dead speaking beyond the veil and the percussive rhythmic droning as the heartbeat of Hel itself.
There is a very withered, ancestral magick about this record that becomes very apparent as it slowly crawls and slithers across its length. The minimalism truly speaks volumes, proving that variation on a theme, rather than piling on as much as possible, creates a much more memorable impact. Draugurinn do not shy away from hypnotism, but instead embrace it. While to some this may seem monotonous, I feel instead it is a rather exceptional and crucial tool when creating droning and ritualistic ambiance. It allows the music to swirl and devour, slowly exposing its secrets over time, demanding the attention of its listener to the very smallest detail.
Minningar úr undirheimum is a record that truly emanates shamanic pagan magick to the highest possible level. While there may be other acts these days performing for larger crowds under the label of “Nordic Folk”, nobody truly embodies the primal spirit of ancestral human connection to the magick of our world and beyond better than Draugurinn.