One band that I have consistently listened to since I found out about them (probably in 1999 or 2000) is Garmarna. If you haven’t heard of them, that’s understandable. They are a Swedish band that does (or rather did, since they’ve kind of been off the grid for about a decade now) traditional Swedish folk music with a more modern flair. Specifically, I think their music fits in very well with the industrial and trip-hop genres that were really maturing around that time.
I feel that if Garmarna had marketed themselves a little differently, they really could have broken ground in the United States and been a significant force in American music at the time. This may or may not be true – it is not often the case that non-English-speaking bands break through in the American market. But their music was so entrancing, different, dark, moody, ground-breaking, and well-written that I can’t help but think they might have succeeded more than they did.
Perhaps they could have toured with some more well-known trip-hop or industrial groups like Massive Attack or Nine Inch Nails, or some of the more experimental proggy bands such as Tool, Peter Gabriel, or King Crimson. Instead, in the United States they mostly stuck to Nordic Roots Festivals and similar events for Swedish bands. Maybe they just weren’t interested in the American market – it might be egotistical to even think that concerned them at all. I do think there was some kind of missed opportunity there, though. However, if any members of Garmarna are reading this, there’s still time! I would love to see a Garmarna show in the United States!
In fact, when I was a teenager I loved Garmarna so much that I wrote a couple emails to various members of the group. The one who wrote me back was Emma Härdelin (the lead vocalist). I don’t have a copy of the email now, but it was just a very sweet little note that really touched me at the time. Fans don’t often receive responses to fan letters (I know I didn’t from basically anyone else).
I believe their best, most complete artistic statement was Vedergällningen (in English, Vengeance). That album is just solid from beginning to end. Like I said, it was moody and dark, but also the combination of Swedish folk music and industrial/trip-hop actually worked amazingly together. I am usually skeptical of many genre-fusing bands but these guys were just on.
For those of you who know me but have not yet given Garmarna a listen, please, do me a favor and check them out. Here are some of my favorites.
Herr Holkin (no official music video, but by far my favorite)
Gamen (official video)
Euchari (official video, words by Hildegaard von Bingen)