Instinkt, Grum (Go, 2006)

The Danish quintet Instinkt first came to my attention when their debut CD HUR! came out in 2002. Like other New Nordic folk bands such as Hedningarna and Gjallarhorn, Instinkt incorporates rock influences into their sound to bring out some of the more primal elements of the traditional music of their homeland. Their formula proved initially to be an effective one, as HUR! contained a number of excellent high-energy tracks. Last year Instinkt re-emerged with their sophomore effort Grum. While the energy level on the new album generally remains high, the band doesn't really do anything groundbreaking this time around. If anything, they seem to be contracting their musical horizons instead of expanding them.

For better or worse, the opening two instrumentals "Bjerglaaten" and "Bjerg 2" set the tone for the album. The tunes are fast-paced, but the arrangements sound formulaic, with standard rock drumming and a simple, straightforward melody played on the fiddle. Unfortunately much of the album follows suit, and a lot of things that made HUR! so interesting to me are missing from Grum. For starters, my favorite two tracks on HUR! were "Vilde Hvide" and "Disko Hopsa," a pair of songs. While there is some wordless vocalizing on a few tracks on Grum, there is one track with barely discernible words, a negligible amount of group singing on a couple of others, and that's it. This album also lacks any of the jazzy interludes, kulning (from one of the men in the band, no less), and the kind of edgy Swedish-style fiddle melodies that characterized much of HUR! and caused it to grab my attention. What's left is mostly indistinct instrumental tunes alternating between fast and slow. The two exceptions are the demented hoedown "Yummi Yah" and the hurdy-gurdy tune "Bollywood Express." While both of these tunes capture the fever pitch of the best tracks on HUR!, they also both go a little too far over the top with the screaming voices and screeching fiddles.

I suppose that Grum has some merit on its own terms, and people getting their introduction to the band might like it quite a bit more than I did. I based my expectations for the album on my previous experience with HUR!, though, and couldn't help but be disappointed. Grum just didn't keep my interest.

Overall grade: C+

Reprinted with permission from The Green Man Review
Copyright 2007 The Green Man Review

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