Year of release: 2019
Released by: Ashen Dominion
Rating: 8,2 / 10
The branches of the Ukrainian YGG, which did not show signs of life for 8 years, suddenly started moving again. In 2019, Ukrainians played two concerts in the Czech Republic, and then announced the imminent release of the long-awaited album on February 5, 2020 at Ashen Dominion. Rejoice!
Looking ahead, I’ll say that the “Last Skald” is unlikely to be as successful as the debut. The 2011 album had several unique factors that helped. Firstly, the “atmospheric” sound characteristic of Ukraine, which at that time delighted the whole world and had not yet turned into something ordinary. Secondly, release at Oriana Music which entailed great restrictions in terms of distribution (which was also a plus, since the more difficult it is to get the disc, the higher its value in the eyes of the fan), but at the same time strengthened the already obvious connections of YGG with NOKTURNAL MORTUM and a powerful Kharkiv scene. Finally, the unclear status of YGG after the release of the album and complete silence on the air made the band more "cult". I think concerts and the new album will make YGG a more “ordinary” band, but time will tell.
One of the reasons for this conclusion is also that The Last Skald” does not contain absolutely nothing fundamentally new. It is like FIFA 19 after FIFA 18 - the essence is the same, only everything has become a little more beautiful, more convenient and deeper. As if the albums were divided not by 9 years, but by a year and a half. “The Last Skald” has a classic “atmospheric” structure of four long tracks, each of which has its own mood, pace and set of basic riffs, repeated dozens of times. The main themes and aesthetics, as before, are based on Norse mythology. Have they should to change anything? My answer is rather negative, although I would not refuse a couple of surprises. But there won't be any of them. Fortunately, the songs are still great, and this is the main thing. The album differs from its predecessor in shorter duration (although this is still 52 minutes) and, as a result, in greater density. The parts of the harp are purely symbolic, there are small keyboard interludes (one of them, coming to the end of the third song, is wildly strange), there are no lengthy instrumental tracks. The sound is cleaner and more voluminous. The overall tempo has slightly decreased: the first song is fast, the last has a quick fragment, but everything else uses old "burzumic" rhytm. Sometimes music slows down completely and switches to an almost progressive sound with technical parts of bass or acoustics, reminding that these people play, for example, in a more complex band KZOHH. I must admit that the new album is technically more difficult than the debut, but the general perception does not change from this. In such music, emotions and the notorious atmosphere overshadow everything else.
The vocal part made me think. At the first listening, I disliked it greatly. At the second it seemed more than appropriate, with subsequent listenings impressions again varied. Perhaps most of the vocals are good, except for these insane cries in the vein of depressive metal. However, I still think that these people did their best vocals on the “Arctogaia" album of ULVEGR. On the other hand, YGG still offers what ULVEGR has long lost: Nordic spirituality and an immense musical space in which you can get lost, find a lot, and then rediscover yourself. Perhaps, “The Last Skald” became just such a rediscovery of themselves for Helg, Odalv and Vrolok, a return to their true essence which was forgotten over the years of exploring space, medieval horrors, ancient Middle Eastern occultism and Satanism. After all, if you think about it, in recent years there have been only a handsome of serious European albums for white people in extreme metal, such as this one. I wouldn't consider pieces of plastic wannabe crap from SKOGEN or AUSTERE as such albums, despite the label's comparations of YGG with these bands. Hopefully, contrary to the name, this album will not be the last for YGG.
At the start, the album will be available in three formats: digipack regular, digipack A5 format, box set. Plus merch. Everything can be bought on the label website from February 5th. Then the digital version will be released. I embed the title track which is available now, but, in my opinion, the starting song “Dead Swamps” would be more revealing.