From Iceland — Gods Of Iceland: Jötnar, A Sick af Power Metal Band

Gods Of Iceland: Jötnar, A Sick af Power Metal Band

Gods Of Iceland: Jötnar, A Sick af Power Metal Band

Published April 9, 2021

Hannah Jane Cohen
Photo by
Adobe Stock

Superpowers: Are giants. Ride wolves.

Weaknesses: Veins that run with toxic blood which is fatal to their own kind.

Modern Analogue: A Swedish Power Metal Band that just took it too far.


If there’s a group from the Norse Pantheon more suited to creating a cheesy power metal band than the Jötnar, I’ll eat my copy of WoW and also give whomever points them out one trillion pillaged cities. Seriously, that’s a real bet. Email answers to thisisnotarealbet@grapevine.is. Actually don’t—the wifi in Miðgarðr is kind of spotty.

So far away…

Anyway, usually described as giants, the Jötnar were one of the early races in the Norse Pantheon. Think of them as the “bad guys” of the Nine Worlds, as opposed to the totally-not-violent-and-scary Æsir and admittedly-quite-lovely Vanir. In fact, the definition of Jötunn in the Oxford Language Dictionary is “a member of the race of giants, enemies of the gods.” Enemies of the gods! I mean, the epic melodic chorus writes itself, doesn’t it?

But while they are giants, that term is actually rather vague in Norse mythology. Unlike the towering creatures you might have seen in hits like ‘Jack & The Beanstalk’ and ‘Harry Potter’, the Norse giants weren’t necessarily large, hairy, and dumb. In fact, some were human sized, wise, attractive and even rather fascinating to talk to. Take Ýmir, the first of the lot, who famously birthed two children via his armpits and was later murdered, bleeding out toxic blood that subsequently killed all but two of his kind. Jeez. He’d probably have some stories to tell, which, we’d reckon, would make a fantastic two-disc concept album. Shame ghosts can’t shred, eh?

(Note that Ýmir was in fact killed by Odin and his two brothers, who were actually half-giants and Ýmir’s grandsons. And you thought your family had problems.)

Lives, all so wasted and gone

But in a fantastic plot twist—and potential experimental side project—those two lucky giants spared by Ýmir’s bloody genocide went on to create a new sub-species of Jötnar, including the Frost Giants, who lived in Jotunheimr, and the Fire Giants, who lived in Múspellsheim.

The Frost Giants, while being total chaotic messes, were relatively controlled in their frosty kingdom by the Æsir gods in next door Ásgarður, so you don’t need to worry much about them. That said, the Fire Giants are somewhat troubling. Apparently, when Ragnarök arrives, they’ll burst out of their fiery hellscape and kill everyone with the help of Loki and Hel. It’ll basically be a Jon Snow/Daenerys Targaryen situation, except hopefully with a more satisfying ending for everyone involved, and, obviously, a more bombastic soundtrack.

The pain of a lifetime lost

My favourite Jötunn is a rather lovely young woman named Hyrrokkin. A lonely soul who roamed the woods in a lawless portion of Jötunheimr, she patrolled the world on the back of a wolf that she controlled with reigns made from poisonous snakes and was considered so strong and fierce that she shook the earth and caused things to spontaneously combust with but one push. And that’s with just one tap of the finger, so just imagine what she could do with a killer riff accompanied by a children’s choir. Brutal.

But, in the end, the Jötnar are actually just so metal that when you research them, literally every name and term associated with them is actually already the name of a power metal band, song or album. It actually makes me question the creativity of the genre, but, I suppose, through the fire and the flames, the Jötnar will carry on.

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