Glen Gabriel – Norse Mythology – Album Review

Glen Gabriel is probably one of the most prolific composers you’ve never heard of. I know I had never heard of him before looking into his latest album, Norse Mythology, but I had certainly heard his work, even if I hadn’t realised it. His music has featured in adverts for over 100 different brands, including Mercedes, XBox and Nike, as well as being used in around 100 different TV episodes from shows like Pen & Teller: Fool Us, Drug Lord and Hellfire Heroes. The man keeps busy.

He’s made a name for himself with music that blends classical orchestral with electronica, as can be heard in previous offerings like Music In Chronological Order, and his last album Scandinavian Folklore, which is a gorgeous blend of traditional instrumentation and synths. Stylistically his work is reminiscent of movie/trailer music specialists Two Steps from Hell.

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Norse Mythology is where Glen turns his focus to Norse myth and legend, giving us an album full of sweeping, epic numbers that would fit perfectly into any number of fantasy based TV series or games. Frankly you could replace the soundtrack to Skyrim with tracks from this album and they would fit perfectly.

Track 1, ‘The First Gods’, is a brass and wind heavy epic that can stand toe to toe with Skyrim‘s ‘Dragonborn’ any day, themed as it is around the first Norse Gods Odin, Vili and Vé. Track 2, ‘Niflheim’, in mythology was the realm for both evil men, and for those who did not die a heroic or worthwhile death. It was a dark, cold, lonely place ruled over by the Goddess Hel and this track certainly captures that feeling of sadness and isolation. Track 3 is ‘Muspelheim’, and this was a land of fire and lava, home to the fire giants, lit by demons of fire pounding on drums. This is a synth and drum heavy track, a thumping, pounding call to arms that would stir the soul of any warrior!

Tracks 4 and 5 – ‘Ginnunagap The Yawning Void Pts 1 & 2’ – is the primordial void spoken of in the ‘Gylfaginning, the Eddaic text which records Norse cosmogony (the theory of how the universe came to be). A more wistful, etheral tone is found in part 1, while the second part is more strident and demanding. Track 6 is ‘Audhumla Mother Cow’, and in myth, the frost giant Ymir fed from her milk, and over the course of three days she licked away the salty rime rocks from a glacier in Niflheim to reveal Búri, the grandfather of the gods, along with Odin, Vili and Vé. Here she’s represented through violins to begin with, rising to a triumphant crescendo at the end of the track as, presumably, the Norse Gods are revealed to the world for the first time.

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Track 7 is ‘Death of Ymir’ – because it wouldn’t be Norse mythology without someone getting slitted up. Ymir was the first being, pre-dating the Gods. He was the father of all the giants, and was eventually killed by Odin and his brothers. It’s said that the flow of his blood drowned all but one of the frost giants and that Odin and the others used his body to create the world. This is a sad, wistful track telling of his death, but at the same time it’s hopeful and uplifting as his death creates the world for mortal men and women. Track 8 is  ‘Creating Earth’. It’s a grisly business chopping up a frost giant. Turning his blood into seas and rivers, his flesh into the earth itself, his hair into trees… but somehow it doesn’t seem so bad when it’s presented like this. The music here speaks again of hope, of life and joy and the potential to accomplish great feats like those of Odin and his brothers.

While each track is accompanied by a specific piece of lore or story, it’s not something that particularly comes across while listening to the album in isolation, but reading the backstory to them does add a whole new dimension to the music, helping give a context that a listener can fix on, and it truly brings the whole album to life. For fans of Norse mythology there’s a whole lot to like here, and frankly any fan of fantasy-styled music will have a great time as well. A simply lovely album from beginning to end.

Norse Mythology is out on 19th November from Audio Network.

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