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World Music CD Reviews Europe

HEDNINGARNA

By MARTY LIPP
Published June 5, 2006

1989-2003
NorthSide

What started as a few college friends playing around with old instruments grew into a wing of the Scandinavian folk revival movement. Hedningarna spearheaded the Swedish “drone rock” of the 1990s that ran the Swedish hurdy gurdy through electronic effects. The group broke new ground again on its second album by adding keening harmonies by two Finnish singers. The band, whose name means “The Heathen,” can sound prog-rock heavy, singing hoary tunes of maidens and mythical beasts, but it’s all tongue-in-cheek. This collection cuts through the middle-range of the band’s work, leaving out its most jaw-clenching moments, as well as more somber pieces. Still, tunes like “Fulvalsen” show what intensity they can conjure, with a Swedish bagpipe channeling Jimi Hendrix’s guitar. “Chicago” has the band doing a wild, odd-metered take on the blues, while “Vottikaalina” shows the Finnish women in full gallop. Since this band’s renown is limited outside Scandinavia, this mid-priced collection is a great chance for future fans to get to know these merry medieval pranksters.