CD Review – Kalandra – Kingdom Two Crowns: Norse Lands Soundtrack (Extended)

Kalandra is, ostensibly, a Scandinavian pop-rock band that describes its music as “weaving ethereal melodies into raw and eerie musical landscapes”. Although this release is a soundtrack it is neither from a movie nor television but rather was composed as the original soundtrack for the game Kingdom Two Crowns and its new world called Norse Lands, Kingdom Two Crowns: Norse Lands Soundtrack (Extended). It is Kalandra’s second studio album and comes as a very unique and different project from their debut album The Line, which was released in 2020 and is considered more at the poppy end of pop-rock. The game Norse Lands takes place in an environment inspired by Norse Viking culture from year 1000 C.E. Players can unleash abilities drawn upon Norse Gods, control powerful forces, building Viking-inspired armaments, solving challenging puzzles and the like. Realising that to work as stand-alone music away from the game, the band decided to transform the original soundtrack somewhat by extending some tracks and by applying a new mix, to allow the listener, and potential non-gamers “a more holistic experience of the music”.

The sound of the music at times brings to mind the work of Celtic-proggers Clannad in the use of pop and rock instruments along with folk ones allied with the ethereal feel of the vocals. Kalandra, however, takes the idea to a more primal realm and evokes landscapes for the mind with a feel for the primordial world. This is an imagined Viking realm of course, and the music is suited to the needs of the game rather than intending any historical accuracy. The sounds are quite ambient in any case, and work well as tunes themselves without the need to be a soundtrack. A lot of the flavour of the music comes from the inclusion of folk instruments and guests John Stensersen and Kenneth Lien do sterling work on their respective instruments including using old style instruments like Hurdy-Gurdy, Nyckelharpa and Moraharpa. They blend extremely well with the band, bringing a haunting colour to the music.

Vocals are not prominent on most of the tracks, Eykthyrnir, the opener, being the one that features them. They are not entirely absent elsewhere but they are employed more spartanly, or placed within the mix almost as another instrument as on Drømmefanger, where they give the track a shimmering otherworldliness, evoking forests, open wood fires, and shafts of diffused sunlight.

If anything, the music is understated rather than dramatic, showing elegance and a certain gracefulness to induce the transportive nature of the music. It makes no bold statements, allowing the listener to immerse themselves in an imagined time and place. The music never remains something you would listen to in the background, it is too engaging for that.

Kalandra says; “We’ve long been interested in taking on a project like this, and we were intrigued by the possibility to expand our musical horizons. This has been an immensely fun project to be a part of, and we’ve embraced all the challenges that came with trying to fit our own sound into a game series with an already solid fanbase and existing mythos. We hope both new and old listeners will enjoy our contribution as much as we’ve enjoyed making it”. I think they’ll find they’ve achieved that.

1. Eykthyrnir

2. Ferden

3. Drømmefanger

4. Veiviseren

5. Skogtroll

6. Mørke Skoger

7. Synnavind

8. Helheim

9. Nordlys

10. Greed

11. Hrimfaxi

12. Valkyrja

Katrine Stenbekk – Vocals

Jogeir Daae Mæland – Bukkehorn, Piano, Synthesisers, Guitar, Vocals

Florian Bernhard Döderlein Winter – Synthesisers, Bowed Guitar, Vocals

Oskar Johnsen Rydh – Drums & Percussion

With guests:

John Stenersen – Moraharpe, Dreieltyre, Nøkkelharpe

Kenneth Lien – Hardingfele, Tagelharpe, Dvoyanka

Inge Bremnes – Art, Vocals

Release date: 8th April, 2022

Label: ByNorse

Formats: digital, Ltd CD & vinyl

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