“Hugsjá” is the second album from the duo of Ivar Bjørnson (Enslaved) and Einar Selvik (Wardruna). Like the first album “Skuggsjá,” “Hugsjá” is steeped in the same Norwegian folk with arrangements and instrumentation that are unique to their homeland. The one major difference for me is that “Hugsjá” feels more upbeat and has a better set of songs overall.
This is not to say that the first album wasn’t quality. “Skuggsjá” was more folk and more traditional sounding overall whereas “Hugsjá” puts the rock back into folk rock and prog rock. The album starts out with a sound that I have never heard before. It’s this bizarre humming sound. I don’t know the instrument but I assume it’s spun around in the air? It gets your attention as the title track starts the album off in elegant fashion. It’s a regal sounding track which sets the tone for what follows.
While “Hugsjá” has much in common with “Skuggsjá,” the first glimpse of a more “rock” approach comes with the second track “WulthuR” which merges the traditional Norwegian vibe with a modern acoustic prog sound. Plus it has a nice groove to it. And the flow continues with “Ni Døtre av Hav.” Such a meditative vibe to this song. This brings up another strength, the sequencing. The album has a perfect flow to it, from one song to the next. You listen to it and get so lost in it, you don’t even realize where you are.
When I mentioned that there is more rock in this album, this is NOT an album you’d ever hear on rock radio. Whether it’s the percussive “Fornjot” or the synth infused (yet still acoustic) “Nattseglar” or glorious beauty of “Nytt Land,” the arrangements are far too different for the average rock listener. However, the average PROG rock listener will find “Hugsjá” to be a very welcoming place.
Maybe it’s just me but I feel like I understand “Hugsjá” more than its predecessor. There’s a beauty that is unique to each album. They are each clearly children of the same parents yet each have their own identity. Einar Selvik has a great voice and a great presence and Ivar Bjørnson is one of the most underrated talents in music today. “Hugsjá” is another piece of beautiful art from Norway that deserves to be absorbed to the fullest.
3. Ni Døtre av Hav
4. Ni Mødre av Sol
7. Nytt Land
11. Um Heilage Fjell
Label: Norse Music
Release Date: April 20, 2018