Hagathorn – Björndansen Review

Band: Hagathorn
Album: Björndansen
Label: Nordvis
Genre: Folk
Country: United States
Release Date: June 3rd, 2022
For Fans Of: Faun, Kaunan, Tenhi

Do you ever feel the need, after a long day of fighting orc bandits, searching for blessed artifacts and slaying dragons, to rest in a tavern, with a jug of ale in your hand and some nice music to lift your spirits? If that’s the case, Hagathorn has got you covered.

Hagathorn is a US-based solo folk project by Will Ott. The project is inspired by nature, folklore, and poetic landscapes, and Ott claims he endeavours to “breathe life into feelings and emotions from forgotten times, helping us to rediscover our connections to the old magic that is still alive within us.” He already succeeded in doing so on his debut album Hartworld, from 2020, and he continues to do so on his second full-length, Björndansen, which is released this Friday, June 3rd.

Björndansen consists of nine musical pieces, seven of which are reworkings of classic Scandinavian folk songs, and two of which are original compositions by Will Ott himself. Regarding the seven classics, Ott hasn’t just interpreted and recorded them, but he has actually adapted them. He added improvised melodies and motifs, as well as thematic elements to complement and enrich the original melodies.

What makes the music extra interesting is that everything is played on actual instruments. Instead of digitally simulating the sound of these traditional folk instruments – which is what solo projects often do – Will Ott actually plays them and records his playing. Ott really proves to master these instruments. You can hear the control, dynamics and nuance in his playing, and the fact that he masters such a wide array of instruments – from a mandola and a gothic harp, to a cello, to a hammered dulcimer – shows the versatility of Ott’s musical skill.

Overall, the album feels really coherent. This isn’t necessarily brought about by some clear structure, as it’s an anthology on which the tracks wouldn’t suffer if they were taken out of the context of the record. Instead, it’s achieved by the sound: the recordings and mixes are really consistent, making the album work as a whole. In terms of composition, on the other hand, there’s a lot of variety. The diverse instrumentation that’s mentioned above is not only skillfully played, but also skillfully arranged. Some tracks, like “Hia Hia Svärmor” or “Stures Schottis” are more rhythm-based: the accompanying instruments and ancient drums accentuate the pulse of the main musical motifs. On other tracks, like “Hvittenland” there’s less emphasis on the rhythm, giving it a more flowing feeling.

The record is also diverse in the emotional feeling of the songs. Some tracks, like “Skog Brudmarsch” or “Vänner och Fränder” have a principally melancholic feeling, due to the fact that they’re relatively slow tracks and have minor scales, but there’s also more joyous tracks, like “Polska från Hälleforsnäs” which have a more upbeat rhythm and major scales.

In short, Björndansen is an intriguing record with which Will Ott really succeeds in taking the listener along into a world of fantasy and nostalgia. He invites them to sit beside the fire in a tavern while he plays the role of the bard that entertains the weary travellers. The versatility of the instruments he masters is impressive, and the compositions and arrangements he makes with these instruments are equally notable. Although there’s a lot of variety in the instrumentation and emotional feeling of each individual track, the album still feels like a coherent whole, making it a pleasant experience to listen to.

Rating: 7.5/10


  1. Metsän Kuningas
  2. Björndansen
  3. Skog Brudmarsch
  4. Polska från Hälleforsnäs
  5. Ängsälvor
  6. Vänner och Fränder
  7. Hia Hia Svärmor
  8. Stures Schottis
  9. Hvittenland

Total Playing Time: 36:31

Click here to visit Hagathorn’s Bandcamp