I started listening to Kalandra a little over 2 years ago, when Mr. Spotify Algorithm decided to give me their song Brave New World in my weekly playlist, and boy was I hooked. Katrine’s vocals on this song were phenomenal and the music was very well done. At that time, they had not released any full album yet, but had just a couple of songs on an EP. They later on released a cover for Warduna’s Helvegen which blew me away. I listened to this song on repeat for months. I’ve been following them and hoping for more ever since that fateful day.
Their first album was more than just some songs gathered together on a CD. It was a trip into a new world that amazes you from the first second of Borders to the last second in It Gets Easier. I don’t know what it is with Norwegian bands, but the ambiance that bands with a folk influence create is so mesmerizing (I will be using this word a lot throughout this review, so buckle up.)
When Kalandra released the song My Kingdom back in 2021, I was shocked with how good it was, the ambiance and atmosphere in it were just crazy good. They mentioned this was a soundtrack to the indie game Kingdom which was released back in 2015-2016. I did not know back then that this was going to lead to a full soundtrack album, and then, BAM! All of a sudden they release a full 12 track album with music for the game.
The album is a concept album with sounds and music that plays in the game. It is mostly made up of ambient music, choir harmonies and folk sounds. While a bit different from their previous album, it is still a masterpiece in its own right. The first time I listened to it, I played it twice, because one time was absolutely not enough and I wanted to stay immersed in the world that the music created. Katrine’s vocals are what I imagine angels sound like, they take you to different places and guide your heart and soul to a different plane of existence.
We start with Eikthyrnir (meaning: a stag which stands upon Valhalla) which is a combination of strings and vocal humming, and is an excellent start to the album as it sets the tone for what’s to come. I felt like I was taken to a huge green field and was slowly dissolving and becoming one with nature. Ferden (meaning: journey) comes after that and the calm keyboard playing throughout the song has your heart racing a bit but the flute calms you down. After that trip is finished, Drømmefanger (meaning: dream catcher) takes you back to where Eikthyrnir was and you feel peaceful and safe. Be ready for sadness and melancholy, because Veiviseren (meaning: the wizard) pulls no punches and the bagpipes immediately play with your heartstrings.
The next song dips into Norwegian folklore and is the theme of Skogtroll (meaning: the forest troll) which is a bit upbeat and feels like you are in the forest dancing around a campfire, only to be led to Katrine’s mesmerizing vocals again in Mørke Skoger (meaning: dark forest) and back into a world of mystery and a bit of fear. With tense emotions we start Synnavind (meaning: southern wind) which has a more calming effect with the choir and the percussion.
The highlight of the album is of course Helheim (meaning: the realm of the dead,) a song that is a signature Kalandra song. Katrine’s superb performance along with the ambiance, strings, bagpipes, percussion and harmonies. It is a mixture of feelings, you feel scared, you feel excited and anxious. You want to run and fight. I literally felt like a viking in a battle (even though I was sitting on my comfy chair at home sipping on some hot tea.) I was full of Norwegian pride and went to amazon to buy a viking axe.
After all that tension, we are hit with Nordlys (meaning: northern lights) which is a short set of horns being blown in the air to signify the end of a battle and tell the warriors that everything is over, and after your heartbeat calms down and you feel at ease, the warning horns ring in the air and your village gets raided. Greed makes you feel just that. After all is lost, you go to your trusted steed and run away with the feelings of loss crushing you, Hrimfaxi (meaning: the shining mane) explores feelings of loss and defeat. We end the album with the best finale to this journey, Valkyrja (meaning: Chooser of the Slain) is one of the most atmospheric songs I have ever listened to, you feel calm but still excited, you feel at ease but fearful, like you are finally rested but the shadows of the past still follow you, I doubt there could have ever been a finale that fits the whole album better than this.
Kalandra have created a masterpiece that befits a survival game set in Norse history. It literally took me on a ride where I felt happiness and sadness, defeat and victory, love and loss without a single word being spoken. This is a talent that few bands nowadays have and the Norwegians absolutely excel at it (Wardruna comes to mind.) I give this album an 8 out of 10, the only reason it’s not a 10 is that it is only 35 minutes long, I would have loved to stay in this world for way longer. Whether you’re a fan of Kalandra or not, this album is a must-listen, believe me, you don’t want to miss it.
You can stream the album here and let us know your thoughts