Just two days ago, in introducing another premiere, I remarked that 2019 was shaping up to be a banner year for medieval black metal. In the forefront of my mind when I wrote that was this extraordinary album by Grylle. It’s not the only example I had in mind, but it stands in front. And perhaps paradoxically, an album that has proven to be one of the best of any genre I’ve heard this year (or likely will hear), in the midst of so much metallic extremity, is one performed almost entirely with acoustic instruments — and very old ones at that.
Les Grandes Compagnies is not stingy in its sharing of marvels either. It presents 11 tracks and more than an hour of music. Becoming immersed in it is quite easy. Leaving it behind 65 minutes later is very difficult. In some ways it’s like a time-traveling journey many centuries into the past, but not exactly like that. Rather than a pathway into a long-gone world that once did exist, it’s perhaps more like being transported into a world of the imagination, an ingenious hybrid of the ancient and the modern that exists only there.