How would you react if Ihsahn, his wife, and a legendary folk musician decided to join forces in one screwy fiddle-laden rock group? Whether you'd be happy or pissed, such a union did happen with Emperor's vocalist, Starofash (Ms. Ihsahn), and Knut Buen when the threesome decided to combine their multiple musical professions into one solid entity: Hardingrock. As clueless freshman welcome their new roommates into a single dorm, Norway's spunky squad openly accepts unlimited fiddle licks and groovy hard rock feels with their long-awaiting debut entitled Grimen. Combining such a diversified roster of musicians would seem rather tricky, but Hardingrock prevails with this intelligent nugget of folk rock that'll turn heads and spark good times.
Many individuals seem to be under the impression that Hardingrock is an ultra-heavy folk band, yet that's quite far away from this project's actual sound. Instead, the riffs resemble a strict Deep Purple-like riffing structure without any soloing at all; it's the fiddle that does that. Ihsahn's percussion is quite typical as he only follows certain drum patterns you'd find on any hard rock record without crossing any energetic barriers, and that's really all to expect: rolling rock 'n' roll that's addictive as meth. Of course, it's somewhat cool swallowing a dose of nifty Rainbow worship, but Grimen won't be some perfection-flirting idol; it's just decent musicianship throughout.
Vocally, everything from narration to Ihsahn's blackened shrieks is found quite often, which isn't a shabby addition to Grimen, although a constant dose of the same singing design can be somewhat aggravating if used again and again. On the topic of negatives, only one real problem is found in Hardingrock's debut: Starofash. Ihshan's wife specializes in operatic harps, yet only on rare instances is her presence even detected; almost like she's posing as a guest rather than a real member. It's actually very weird to see her fenced in like so; she really has a wonderful voice, and I'm baffled by such entrapment on Hardingrock's behalf.
Although Ihsahn provides decent instrumentation, Norway's diverse trio centers their blueprints around one thing and one thing only: Buen's fiddle. From start to finish, the fiddle strides throughout every musical note with great connections to the surrounding musical structure. In fact, there are a few ambient-like tracks that show only vocals (usually narrative) and an underlying folk-like vibe, which provides substantial evidence of how often the fiddle is applied. However, too much of a good thing can occasionally be bad, and you'll probably feel rather annoyed after hearing fiddle layered upon more fiddle; not quite a serious issue, but sometimes a nuisance. Despite that, more often than not you'll be clicking your heels to traditional folk rock/metal done right!
Grimen firmly protects its vast backgrounds under the same roof from offensive situations, and after getting cozy, Hardingrock's influences make one killer offspring of folk madness; it has many distinctive genes gracefully clashing in a single body without any defects. Although occasionally flawed, Hardingrock nicely pulls off this multi-cultural release by balancing certain sounds without allowing one more territory than the other, which really shows how well Ihsahn, Buen, and Starofash work together. Fans of folk music will certainly connect with Grimen on many interpersonal levels, yet others that are uncertain should carefully poke it repeatedly before deciding to proceed or retreat.