Updated: Aug 14
Something a little different with this review. On occasion I step away from the world of Goth electronic to write about the beautiful ancestor/s of the dancefloor beats that we stomp to now - Norse / Viking and Pagan tribal and folk music.
You see, everyone who knows me personally is well aware of my obsession with the magical sounds of Heilung and Wardruna who I have written about on here before, and that I converted to the Gods of the Aesir and Vanir years ago.
With this in mind, my partner and I were gifted weekend long tickets to Valhalla viking festival. At first I was hesitant about going as it really didn't seem like my sort of event (surprisingly). However, I was pleasantly surprised with the festival on every level, and this I believe being only the third time it's been held.
I also didn't intend to write a review but having had such a pleasant time; and being acutely aware of how many Goths also listen to Norse music or follow the Gods, the idea did start to cross my mind but there was one particular part of the festival that solidified the choice to review the festival (Be it a little late!) and that was the stunning vocals of Solfyr.. So scroll down for info on Solfyr, a review of the festival, and then a review of Solfyr.
Join us at Valhalla Viking Festival every year in the last weekend of July to view Viking battles, take part in workshops and activities, be entertained by traditional performers, shop weird and wonderful creations from our traders' village and so much more at what we hope to be an interactive, immersive experience for all ages. We look forward to meeting you over a horn full of mead!
Dummer Down Farm, Basingstoke
Solfyr hails from the UK midlands - a land once known as Mercia, ruled and occupied by Anglo-Saxons & viking settlers who voyaged to its shores long ago in search of riches and arable farm land
In her Nordic & Neo-folk music project 'SOLFYR' solo-artist Amber Marie weaves ethereal vocals, ancient languages and historically inspired instruments into an enchanting mix. Drawing strength and healing from the raw power of nature and her intuitive connection to it.
Solfyr's music invites the listener on a journey
Evoking a connection to nature using historical elements and modern tech she forges a link between the ancient and the new. Singing folk songs in Old Norse, Swedish, Norwegian and old English as well as weaving beautiful melodies of wordless emotion that may be felt and understood universally.
The word Solfyr consists of 2 parts 'SOL' - Meaning Sun in old Norse and 'FYR' meaning fire in Anglo-saxon. Solfyr's logo features a sun cross. It is an ancient symbol representing the sun and life giving energy. It is not intended to be used with any other meaning. The belief that every soul is sacred, separation an illusion. The 'S' symbol is a dragon inspired by both the 9th century Osberg viking ship figurehead and the Urnes stave church carvings dating back to the 11th century. Amber hopes to bring healing by sharing & exploring her gift of music and to contribute in giving back the sun cross its original life affirming meaning.
Amber Marie is the solo-artist behind the Nordic/Neo-folk project 'SOLFYR'. When not working on music or her creative businesses she likes to spend time wandering woodlands, dancing with fire, HEMA sword training, exploring wild landscapes and ancient sites living her best feral life. If you happen to be walking in a forest and hear an enchanting kulning call off in the distance it might be her! (or a Huldra so be careful...)
Also known as the craftswoman of 'VALKENWOLF' and a free spirit Amber's art as well as her music is inspired by nature, Nordic themes, mythology, folklore and history. Historical inspiration comes from being an associate member of Viking & Anglo-Saxon living history groups, visiting museums & ancient sites.
She regularly trades her handcrafted wares at events & medieval markets across the UK. Click below to check out her creations on her Etsy shop, Instagram or Facebook.
Since 2017 Amber Marie (Solfyr) has performed at 'viking' themed festivals, alternative pagan and metal events across the UK intuitively connecting with audiences & like minded souls through her music. She would like to thank everyone who has helped and encouraged this journey.
In 2019 Amber's vocals were professionally recorded for the first time featuring on Atorc's intro track Hrafansmerki and then a stand alone self-released single 'Skadi' was released. In August 2022 she teamed up with creative souls Will Hunter & Gisli Gunnarson of Vevaki to record and produce her debut EP (self-released 30-03-23)
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Dummer Down farm is a beautiful location, a couple of large fields with a great view of the surrounding countryside thanks to a gentle slope. It was pretty quick and easy to park up and pick up our wristbands.
It was also ideal that 'The Vikings' bike gang were providing friendly and easy going security because they know the crowd, the ideas behind the festival, and aren't just another security company hired to do the job - they personally care about the festival. (Having worked in security for years, I find most festivals end up with shirt filler guards who have no understanding of the people or the atmosphere and can easily ruin things that way.)
So yea, straight away, felt safe, unbothered and happy, thanks Vikings!
Being in the third year (I think) it was clear that the festival was still in the growth stage. Even so, the amount on offer was enough to keep up happy for a couple of days. The site had about 20 or more good stalls offering crafts, artwork, tattoos, hair braiding, falcon holding, axe throwing, archery, fun games, weaponry, and more.
There were two main things that had caught my attention on the activity list and that was storytelling and performances from musicians. (Two of my favourite 'viking' things)
This was the wonderful storyteller who told a different tale - three times a day for the whole festival in the 'woodland temple'.
I've only ever read or heard very short tellings of the sagas and events that happened to the Gods. So to hear the story of Idun's abduction in full over a half hour sitting and once more of how Odin got his horse, Sleipnir; as well as catching the end of some of his other telling of the sagas whilst the darkness crept in across the trees, well.. That was brilliant and my full applause to this man! Thank you for telling them so well.
(Always tip your storyteller folks! No really, make sure you do so)
Speaking of the woodland temple, what a beautiful idea that was!
I had expected a big area with an actual temple. However the magic of just a handful of trees, about 15 at most, circled by the carvings of the Gods Odin, Thor, Freya, Frigg, and my personal deity Tyr, created an impressive sense of magic and connection that could only be achieved in such a simple and personal space.
Seeing the offerings placed on the Gods hit home to me that I too should spend some time with each and so offered what I could. Sitting in quiet contemplation with Tyr and Odin is something I do not do half as often as I should and so welcomed the opportunity whole-heartedly.
Not only did we attend the opening ceremony inviting the Gods to join and bless the festival at the woodland temple but on the Saturday we were also lucky enough to witness a Viking wedding. Planning on having one myself, it certainly helped with a couple of ideas!
Let's just touch on the music side of things quickly. Each artist sounded great, they sounded at home, at peace, and with hearts full of passion. Anna Tam and Katy Kelly performed some beautiful pieces, and some well known covers to liven the feast hall and what a performance each and ever artist put on that weekend! Although it does sadden me to admit I did not see all of the artists and I am sorry if I missed other stand out performers.
As I mentioned above though, one artist stood out beyond all, and that was Solfyr; (and Seidrblot!) But let me finish the festival review first.
The feast! What a brilliant time that is!
There's always one thing you can count on at viking inspired events, the overuse of the cheer 'Skol/skål' by merry people - and a few fools! The feast is held in the main tent where the musician stage is located.
Being vegan, we were a little concerned about what we would be offered but those concerns were wonderfully blown out of the water by an overwhelmed but still incredibly friendly guard pointing us to the vegetarian and vegan table. We were brought out a plate of vegan cheese, fruit, and veg followed by large plates of delicious vegan 'meats'. All the while friendly hosts wandered up and down pouring free larger, ale, cider, and mead continuously and I certainly filled the large horn I had bought multiple times over!
By the time we had eaten our fill we were offered another plate - this time with chips, and other items I can't quite recall as we passed, having reached the point of bursting already!
For the meat eaters reading - The meat plates were stacked HIGH with sausages, burgers, ribs, you name it! Feast really was the word and that free food and drink lasts three hours!
Even with a few drunken fools being a bit too zealous in their antics and use of 'Skol!' at the top of their lungs, nothing ruined the atmosphere and it made for a great dinner time experience.
What else? Well the festival also hosts some wonderful re-enactment stands amongst their 'viking' village with stalls allowing you to try your hand at blacksmithing, leather working, jewellery crafting, and more. However I really hope this grows in future events as it was a key piece of the festival that was a bit overshadowed by all the food and other merchant stalls.
(Any reenactor who makes and sells period accurate food and the like would make a killing there as that was not on offer! only modern food trucks.)
There were also fight re-enactments, fire dances, and even fire walking events, but these all seemed a little less thought out that what I would have expected, but a welcome addition none the less!
Saturday night saw the burning of a longboat, not a full size actual long boat, but an effective effigy of one none the less. This year it was dedicated to those we have all lost the last few years..
Lastly, animals! There were so many beautiful dogs and some pet corvids too wandering around with their owners. Not only did we see big, beautifully fluffy wolfhounds, but we also saw one of the cutest warriors around..
Valhalla shows so much potential for it to improve and build upon it's success and everything that it does well. To be clear, there is nothing at the festival that is done poorly or 'badly'. Just that many aspects of the festival, are in the first stages of finding a solid footing and I have no doubt this festival will be better and better every year. I am certain we will also continue to attend from now. (I'm still fondly remembering the all the horns being blown at the weekend - especially during the feast.)
I give it my full recommendation for at least one day out as a must, with two to make the most of it.
Of course though its still great for a whole weekend - if you don't need new things constantly like my short attention span brain does!
Thank you Valhalla Viking festival, we hope you and all the wonderful people who attended and worked hard there, continue to thrive!
On the first day, I was only about five merchants stalls in to the beginning of my festival experience. (We started a few hours late late due to M25 traffic) By which point I had held a Hawk, and already bought myself a few pieces for my Altar at home. Whilst browsing merchants, my ear kept getting drawn to a beautiful voice in the distance. The sort of beauty that only Kulning can produce. (A vocal technique used to call livestock from far away)
My interest was of course peaked but I tried to keep control of my short attention span to the merchant in front of me and for my partner busy browsing herself. As we entered another merchant tent, the siren call was clearer and became too enticing and so I made straight to the feast tent to see who it was that was singing such a silken melody.
As soon as we entered the tent, my entire focus was on the vocals swimming in my ears. It took me a good minute or so to suggest that we get a drink from the bar. Yet even so, having got some drinks and sat down, I couldn't resist then moving closer and sitting at the benches in front of the stage.
Amber addressed the audience in between songs, explaining what she was about to sing, it was clear to me that she was shy and unsure of how the audience was finding her music. Yet as she sang each piece, more people cheered and applauded at the end of each song. The energy felt more wholesome and thankful for her presence and by the end of her performance, that shyness had dissipated, sadly by that point though her performance was over.
She had briefly mentioning her bandcamp and that physical CD's of her EP would soon come to fruition before her last song, I immediately bought the EP on bandcamp there and then.
It is not often I get this insistent on how good a performer sounded but take my word for it. In the EP 'Draumr' I found some beautiful melodies, including one titled 'Kulning' (I knew it!)
I find her songs 'Freyja' and 'Hrafnar' to be particularly soulful.
These songs are clearly an outpouring, a devotion, and offering to the Gods that she follows and that passion is evident in ever note and beat of the EP.
What I saw Solfyr perform on that stage was worship - in her own way, and that is what makes bands like Heilung and Wardruna so special, it is not just music, it's a ritual of connection with the Gods and the spirits. This is why I write about Solfyr, because it deserves to be heard!
I had to run up to Amber and tell her how great that was! I had hoped to catch her for a few interview questions at the festival as she had a stall selling crafts and offered henna tattoos but she was far too busy each time I walked past the stall to broach the subject.
I was able to catch her perform again on the Saturday, this time joined by her friend from Seidrblot. He added an impressive element to Amber's songs.. Deep, bass heavy throat singing that was some of the most impressive throat singing I've ever heard. So Seidrblot.. Amazing, I'll be listening to your music once I've finished this review!
Thank you Solfyr for your music - To everyone reading, please go and follow this artist and add them to your playlists. They deserve it!
Thank you for reading See you next year!
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