Tag Archives: Folk Metal

Moonsorrow- Jumalten Aika

Moonsorrow

Looks like Century Media is attempting to define themselves as a metal label once again.  The label added Finnish folk metal pioneers, Moonsorrow to its repertoire last year.  Moonsorrow released their first new album in five years mere days ago and the thing is more epic than Roman warriors fighting each other to the death.  Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to write this review.

Jumalten Aika is an orchestral epic that was too intense for merely a single disc.  If you aren’t pagan, you will be after listening to this album.  The CD is available in limited edition packs as a two disc set featuring disc one, Jumalten Aika, and disc two, a bonus disc with two tracks that should be mandatory listening along with the rest of the LP.  All of the tracks on Jumalten Aika are of ridiculous length but keeping engaged in the music is hardly an issue as Moonsorrow manage to keep their sound interesting throughout the album.  But isn’t that just Moonsorrow’s credo anyway?

The overall feel of Jumalten Aika isn’t wildly different from the band’s previous effort, Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa, or any of their earlier works really. What this is, is simply another Moonsorrow album; a classic in the making. The album kicks off with the title track, which begins with a folk inspired, tranquil intro and builds itself up slowly increasing in fervor throughout the track. Like a saga though, the album really begins at track two, Ruttolehto Sis Päivättömän Päivän Kansa. It is here that the album begins to sound a bit like a spirited game of Advanced D&D come to life.

The band strategically places folk laden interludes throughout the album. The expertly combined folk elements enhance the melodic elements well. Before you can get bored, Moonsorrow speeds things up. Their brand of “heaviness” may not be the most aggressive but it’s in perfect balance with the other elements of the sound. Disc 2 really gives listeners the heaviness they’re craving. Soulless exudes blackened dissonance in the sound of the guitar and the overall fullness of the sound. It’s also the shortest and most “single-worthy” track on the album.  Mimisbrunn is another stand out track on the album because of its progression between melodic, prettier portions of the song that feature beautifully executed, clean vocals and more aggressive passages.  But one could say that about any of the songs on the album.  Each is an epic in and of itself.

The only fault I could find (and I really have to grasp at straws to find any fault with this album) is the spotlessness of the production. I feel as though the album would be more powerful if the production were a bit more stripped down. That’s probably just a symptom of the band being on a huge label though. What I enjoyed most about Jumalten Aika, however, was Moonsorrow’s complete immersion into folk music periodically throughout the album. Their approach was unapologetically straight forward.

Ville Seponpoika Sorvali’s harsh vocals added an unexpected fervor to the sound of the album. His vocals, coupled with, a bombastic, orchestral interludes, as well as slow and emotive passages creates a sheer masterpiece. I highly recommend this album to both fans of Moonsorrow, and people who might not know Moonsorrow but dig epic/folk along the lines of later Bathory, Summoning, or Falkenbach.  It shouldn’t disappoint.

9.5/10

Advertisements

Graveland/Nokturnal Mortum Split- The Spirit Never Dies

noktunal mortum-graveland

This release snuck up on me. I hadn’t been anticipating it when out of nowhere I became enticed by the prideful, and melodic sounds of the East. Nokturnal Mortum (Ukraine) and Graveland (Poland) joined forces to release a split for the first time since Eastern Hammer and the result is of epic proportion.

Nokturnal Mortum-

I’m grateful that Nokturnal Mortum kicked off this album because they took advantage of the privilege in a creative way. The first note of the split is the signature, folk inspired intro to Voice of Steel.  The Spirit Never Dies isn’t some re-release of old Voice of Steel songs, however. Those songs are perfect as it is. What the intro suggests the new material is on par with the  gloriousness of Voice of Steel. Their suggestion is zealous but not significantly.

The Spirit Never Dies exemplifies an interesting growth and progression in the band’s sound. Voice of Steel was a xenophobic battle cry; energetic and alive. The Spirit Never Dies carries a more tortured ambience.  Ever since Lemmy passed on to a bar somewhere in Valhalla, I’ve been noticing a lot of bands writing riffs that sound like they’re inspired by Motorhead.  It’s a chicken/egg situation really.  Was he influential is ways I hadn’t noticed before, or did his passing inspire the musicians writing more recently?  Track two, entitled Східний Злам, definitely has a bit of a fist pumping quality to it in spots.

The songs are complex though, allowing for several progressions throughout them.  Track two deviates from a tortured, Drudkh inspired ambience, to soulful guitar solos, and even aggressive, symphonic interludes.  В Кайданах Часу continues down this emotional joyride with an even more tortured atmosphere that could be comparable to DSBM.  Old Ygg also comes to mind. What’s also nice about track three is the placement of the keyboard parts adds zero faggottry (faggottry- a word I made up,meaning to make more gay) to the sound, but only add an aureate feel whispering in the background.  I’m beginning to believe Nokturnal Mortum is incapable of failure when it comes to writing music.  This album gives credence to that argument.  9/10 only because nothing compares to the greatness of Voice of Steel.

Graveland-

Graveland has never been my first choice of band to listen to but nonetheless, I respect the Hell out of Rob Darken’s creative ability.  Thankfully, his addition to The Spirit Never Dies wasn’t another mediocre attempt to recreate Hammerheart era Bathory, but it also might not have been the most inspired effort either.  The intro to Graveland’s portion of the split is epic and emotional at the same time and there are several spots throughout each of the songs that are easy to lose yourself into.

The problem I have with this effort though is its almost rebellious refusal to climax into intensity.  It’s like when you’re getting head and your partner goes up for air right before you’re about to cum.  You were so close!

That said, the ethereal atmosphere does have a calming effect and is great in spots.  The Last Dawn, in particular has remarkably beautiful folk elements sprinkled throughout it.  Unfortunately, three minutes into the song, Rob Darken comes up for air.  Overall, this effort is enjoyable but maybe not as memorable as Nokturnal Mortum’s addition to the split.  6/10 because it failed to make me climax.

 

https://nokturnalmortum1.bandcamp.com/album/nokturnal-mortum-graveland-the-spirit-never-dies-split-digipack-cd

Tabitha’s Top Six Picks for 2015

2015 was an exceptionally good year for metal. Bands that we hadn’t heard from in years released new albums. Great new bands stormed onto the scene. Black metal bands found their way onto American tours for the first time ever. We saw festivals get bigger and fantastic independent bands get signed to notable, underground labels. 2015 proved that metal is still alive and thriving more than ever. With all that in mind, picking a top six for the year was an exceedingly difficult task. After much deliberation though, I finally settled on the following six releases. Keep in mind that this is just one asshole’s opinion. You are entitled to your lame opinions as well. Don’t be gay.

6. Nile| What Should Not Be Unearthed

Nile

These guys always come hard. Maybe it’s because they have been around for over twenty years and are older than dirt, which means they’ve had a lot of practice. In prior years, I wouldn’t have put them in the top six, but this release was different. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is their best album since “Annihilation of the Wicked”.

What makes this album stand out is the complexity and diversity of the songs. Each track brings something unique to the table. The guitar solos, technicality, and drum work are all irrefutably insane, leaving tech death connoisseurs speechless on their first listen. Despite this, the album has that “old school” appeal as its heaviness is unparalleled.

Also notable, are the lyrical themes on this album. The song “Call to Destruction” is particularly ballsy in its attacks on the futility and destruction of war as well as bringing attention to the dangerousness of religious fanaticism. The focus on current events is a welcome change for Nile. Yes, Nile truly outdid themselves this year, but listen for yourself and be the judge. “What Should Not Be Unearthed” is a must have for 2015.

 

5. Finsterforst| Mach Dich Frei

finsterforst

This band seriously came out of nowhere. Aside from being the sexiest folk metal band to come out of Germany in a long time, Finsterforst can tout being one of the best. “Mach Dich Frei” is the forth release from the band and the one to put them on the map. Napalm Records signed Finsterforst a few years back and can be accredited for the exposure they’ve received for “Mach Dich Frei”. Thankfully, the exposure and praise was well deserved.

Beginning to end, “Mach Dich Frei” is an unapologetic celebration of heathenistic, pagan values, espousing triumph, freedom, and victory with every breath. The folk elements on the record are unique, as the band allows for large accordion sections in the majority of the songs. Yes, Finsterforst has an accordion player and he plays a huge role in creating their distinctive sound.

One can easily be reminded of “Nordland” era Bathory while listening to “Mach Dich Frei” and the compliment is largely earned. With seven members in the band, Finsterforst creates an incredibly full and complicated sound, sprinkled with hidden intricacies and surprises. Simon Shillinger, Johannas Joseph, and Cornelius Heck’s clean vocals are truly remarkable, and cathartic. The band is also not afraid of writing longer songs. The last track on the album, entitled “Finsterforst”, is a twenty-three-minute-long metal symphony. “Mach Dich Frei” is a truly extraordinary addition to the world of blackened pagan/folk metal; a definite must listen for 2015.

 

4. Perdition Temple| The Tempter’s Victorious

perdition temple

This was one of those bands that all my friends were talking about and raving over like a bunch of drooling hounds. Other than hearing them being played in the background at afterhours parties, I waited a ridiculously long time to listen to this band. Perdition Temple is basically a continuation of black/death aficionados, Angelcorpse’s career, and their influence is apparent on “The Tempter’s Victorious”. If you’re looking for the most aggressive and dangerous sounding LP of 2015, “The Tempter’s Victorious” is definitely in the running.

The production on this album is ridiculously meaty and full, yet manages to keep in tune with the aggression of the old school and never sounds digital. The blast beats are bludgeoning and the guitar solos are in line with 80’s Teutonic thrash, yet unbelievably proficient despite their vileness. These points are exemplified on stand out tracks like “Scythes of the Antichrist” and “The Doomsday Chosen”. The anti-

Christian and anti-human lyrics are surprisingly intelligent and well thought out, and frankly, a pleasure to read. This album is a definite 10/10. If you’re looking for a sound to open the gates of hell, look no further. Listening to “The Tempter’s Victorious” will burn your fragile soul.

 

3. Istapp| Frostbiten

istapp

Just when I had made peace with the reality that Istapp was probably never going to release another album, they went ahead and kicked my ass with the release of “Frostbiten” back in August. What a treat this was for the fans. More than just a continuation on 2010’s “Bleklinge”, “Frostbiten” was an improvement. Istapp keeps the essence of Swedish melodic black metal alive with an incredible, throwback sound that coalesces the spirit of Dissection with early Wintersun. Folk elements are woven into the mix in an unassuming manner. The production is kvlt enough to avoid sounding like melodeath, yet remains professional sounding.

I seriously find no fault with this LP in the slightest. “Frostbiten” never bores the listener and each song is memorable. Istapp will leave your blood frozen with tracks like “Skoll”, “Apep”, and “Primim Frigidum”. “Frostbiten”, the title track, has a hauntingly beautiful and catchy chorus, sung in clean vocals. Melodies are evocatively dissonant and leave listeners absolutely captivated. I could go on and on giving this band praise but nothing compares to listening for yourself. Istapp truly impaled listeners this year, like the icicles they’re named after. “Frostbiten” was definitely worth the wait.

 

2. Kroda| Ginnungagap, Ginnungagaldr, Ginnungakaos

kroda

Ukrainian lyrics, Icelandic album title…..is it just me or does it seem like Kroda is trying to avoid becoming popular in America? Unfortunately, when you release an album of this caliber, you’re going to get American attention whether you like it or not. What can I really say? This is another Kroda record, almost perfection beginning to end.

Blackened dissonance permeates throughout the album, leaving listeners spellbound. Kroda gives Melodic Swedish metal bands a real run for their money with this album. The distinctiveness and beauty of each melody on this record is incomparable. Somehow, Kroda manages to create a sound that’s both victorious and misanthropic at once. This is the stuff pagan metal is made of: pure beauty, pure victory, pure nationalism, and pure freedom and harmony amongst nature. All of these ideologies resonate through Kroda’s distinctive sound.

Einenslav’s vocals are among the best in the industry, dripping with unrestrained eccentricity that’s aesthetically pleasing. The flute parts are intricate, complex, and strikingly beautiful. I can’t really say too much more. Other than being a bit slower than some prior releases, this is simply another Kroda record; an unrivalled display of absolute beauty and perfection.

 

1. MGLA| Exercises in Futility

mgla

A few of my favorite elitist asshole bloggers have been saying that “Exercises in Futility” is too smooth and lacks the ugliness and misanthropic aggression of early black metal. They’ve said that there’s not enough rawness in this record’s sound to classify it as true black metal. I must admit, they have a point. Black metal has been changing quite a bit over the past few years. Some might say it’s been watered down to appeal to the masses. Go ahead and call me a big old pussy trend lover then, because I can’t stop listening to this album. I’m not alone here either, as this album has boasted predominantly rave reviews.

Listeners really need to try hard not to cut themselves like emo kids after listening to “Exercises in Futility’s” extreme, nihilistic messages. The beauty in the repetitiveness of the riffs harkens back to the early days of black metal and is incredibly cathartic, yet the production is decent. No, this was not recorded on a tape deck. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Despite the album merely being broken up into six, self-titled chapters, each song had a unique personality of its own. Tracks IV and VI are particularly memorable and emotion inducing. The quality of the drumming is hard not to notice as well. Blasts are tasteful and intricate, blending beautifully with the guitar and bass. The lyrics are bleakly dark and poetic and the vocals are nothing short of amazing.

“Exercises in Futility” is addictive more than anything else. You’ll easily find yourself hitting the repeat button on your favorite song until you’re damn near late for work. MGLA really outdid themselves with this one. “Exercises in Futility” is beautiful music for you to die to.

Well, there you have it, one elitists top six picks for the year. What are yours? List them in the comments. Stay trve! Hails!

Old Forest- Dagian

old forest

What can you expect to hear from a British band that takes nerdism to the extreme with Tolkien themed lyrics growled over folk laden, atmospheric black metal? Well, if Old Forest’s latest release “Dagian” is any indication of what to expect, epic-ness is the clear result.

Veterans, Old Funeral achieve an almost Eastern European folk/pagan metal sound and show clear influence from bands like Drudkh or Walknut. Patience is key when listening this album. The slow build up from the sounds of nature to gloomy blackened ambiance is worth waiting for. The addition of the flute in track one is mesmerizing. Like a Greek epic, each track on Dagian builds off of the other. The first two tracks, Morwen and Non, are more up-tempo and complex. Since both tracks are over ten minutes in length, there is room for many different progressions within each track. These tracks act as a sort of a journey to a more somber place in the middle of the album through the end.

Track three, Tweoneleoht, acts as sort of a ballad, dreamy and ambient, with beautifully melodic breaks. At this point in the album, the band deviates into a sort of black gaze reminiscent of Agalloch or November’s Doom. Old Forest adds a unique touch of the flute to differentiate themselves. The risk of adding clean vocals also worked in the band’s favor. Kobold’s versatile vocals range from haunting to demonic, and the clean vocals are powerful and hypnotizing.

The final track, Neaht, concludes the album in true Burzum fashion, with long, atmospheric feedback. Despite the track’s single, whirring hum, it never bores. Five minutes in, flutes whistle in the background. It continues this minimalistic and genius progression throughout the track ending the saga on a somber note. Originality is the word to describe this Old Forest release. The band takes risks and succeeds to create a truly breathtaking Tolkien-esque narrative. This is definitely an album to look for in 2016.

9/10

https://avantgardemusic.bandcamp.com/album/dagian

Wolfhorde- Toward the Gates of North

 

wolfhorde

Folk metal usually falls into one of two categories: laughably cheesy, pirate music, perfect for LARP-ing or Anti-American, pagan victory songs with somewhat nationalist undertones that leave you wondering whether or not the band is insanely racist. Despite their horrible sentiments, generally the latter category produces better music. Strangely, however, Finland’s Wolfhorde manages to safely teeter on the outskirts of each style of folk metal while also adding a unique flavor to their sound. Wolfhorde’s dynamic is interesting as it fuses an exacerbated Gothenburg atmosphere with a somewhat elementary attempt at folk.

In many ways, “Toward the Gates of North” borders on becoming cheesy with unoriginal flute sections that sound like watered down attempts to duplicate Temnozor and banal riffs that acted more as filler than anything else. What differentiated this album, however, was the odd Gothenburg influence woven throughout the mix. I was reluctant to say this, as I made a similar comparison in a recent review, but in many parts “Toward the Gates of North” sounds identical to “Character” era Dark Tranquility.

Although it may appear that I have nothing but criticism for this band and their latest release, that’s simply not the case. I found myself mildly head banging more than a few times while listening to this album. Wolfhorde did manage to meet the rawness and power I look for in black/folk metal a few times, specifically in the track entitled “Taivaankappelaiden Kato”. Sadly, those moments were short-lived, leaving me longing for more. Listening to this album wasn’t an unfortunate experience, and to interpret this review that way would be a mistake, but rather, it was an unmemorable experience. Even the Nordic lyrical themes seemed a bit uninspired. Still, I would recommend this album to fans of both melodeath and the softer side of folk metal. “Toward the Gates North” is due to be released on January 22 of this year. Watch out for it on Inverse Records.

6/10

https://wolfhorde.bandcamp.com/

Native American Folk Metal

American Indian culture has been associated with metal since its roots. Bands like Iron Maiden, Manowar and Anthrax celebrated American Indian culture and empathized with the plight of their race, in songs like Run to the Hills, Spirit of the Cherokee and, of course, Indians.  It makes perfect sense for metal to celebrate such a culture, as it is enmeshed with struggle, strife, warrior lords, mystery and magic. Indian culture is as celebrated in metal as Egyptian or Viking culture because of its mystery.

However, there is a clandestine subset of metal warriors taking the enigma and plight of the Native Americans to whole new levels. Native American folk metal is a sub genre quickly making its way to the forefront. Also dubbed ancestral metal, pre-hispanic metal or tribal metal, this relatively new genre incorporates the use of indigenous instruments into its sound to embody a fullness and uniqueness in sound and melody that rivals well known Russian folk bands like Kroda or Nokturnal Mortum.

I stumbled upon this genre accidentally. With my interest in the flute growing, I was curious as to what American bands were pumping out great folk metal. People tend to forget that America is more than just the USA, so in my quest I chanced upon a slew of South American, Mexican and Central American bands, all celebrating their indigenous roots and shunning an unwelcome invasion of the Spaniards in their credo. I detected a glimmer of underlying “nationalism” (should I say) in the music, which took me back to the roots of the Scandinavian black metal scene of the 90’s. However their rage is justified and I empathized with the message delivered.

I listened to a number of bands and gained a great deal of respect for the purity of the genre, but three artists stuck with me, with epic albums that I will revisit over and over.
chaska
Ch’aska
Carlo Alonso “Hueso” Raffo~ Vocals, Guitars (rhythm)
Marcelo Huacpe~ Native Instruments
Carlos Llosa~ Bass
Fabián Flores Castro~ Drums
Christian Aguirre~ Guitars (lead)

Upon first listening to this band, I was ready to discard them as a 3 inches of blood rip off.  They quickly redeemed themselves, however, by exceeding the power of 3 inches of blood and refining a unique sound all their own.  Their is a sense of victory achieved in the sound, helping to conjure images of battle and the hunt.  Injecting masterfully timed breaks with clean vocals and buildups of epic proportions, this band certainly knows how to leave a listener hooked and wanting for more.  At it’s heart, Peruvian outfit, Ch’aska is a thrashy power metal band, larger than life and bombastic, but the addition of native woodwind instruments to their sound gives the band an interesting feel.  Thus far, Ch’aska has released only one full length album entitled Pururauca and a couple of EP’s.  We can only hope to hear more from this band soon.  I know they have me hooked.

45881_photo
Guahaihoque
Munseishi~ Ancestral Woodwinds
Naoma~ Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Saitaz~ Bass
Demolt~ Drums
Itztlin~ Vocals

Columbia’s Guahaihoque is the first tribal metal band I had the pleasure of listening to.  What this band does really well is incorporate the use of indigenous instruments in an ingenious way.  Perhaps the most “tribal” of the bands I’ve heard, Guahaihohoque struggled to keep my attention during the more metal parts of their album The Return of the Ancient Gods, only truly shining with their folk elements.  Some of the riffing sounded a bit immature, even “punkish”.  While the band may need to work on refining their sound, their use of the wooden flute is practically hypnotic, making this band truly noteworthy and groundbreaking.

folkheim

Folkheim
Nelson Vilaboa~ Bass
Martin Moreira~ Drums
Erik Nicolas Muñoz Arraño~ Guitars
Pedro Muñoz~ Guitars, Vocals (backing)
Andrés de la Cuadra~ Keyboards
Cristóbal Carmona~ Vocals

Of all the bands within this atypical genre, I was perhaps most impressed by the Chilean sextet, Folkheim.  Forming back in 2003, Folkheim has released two EP’s and their first full length album last year.  Mapu Ni Tiam (the bands first full length release) floored me, as did their EP, Pachakuti.  Folkheim would be considered great black/folk metal even by Russian or Scandinavian standards, with their captivating melodies and hypnotizing breaks into clean chant-like vocals.  Their use of the keyboards is utterly ingenious as it evokes emotions of sadness, embodying the trail of tears left behind by a once sovereign race.  Overall, though, the feel of the music is that of victory, like in all great folk metal.  Once again this band doesn’t forget their native roots, using indigenous instruments throughout their records.  What truly sets Folkheim apart, is the literal, breaks of strictly native music sprinkled throughout their releases that evoke images of rain dances, battle cries and buffalo jumps.  I have yet to find even one song I don’t like.  Folkheim is epic beyond measure.

For those among you bored by the droves of cookie cutter black and folk metal bands, but not wanting to delve into hipster territory for a change of pace, I highly recommend this great new genre.  It is like nothing you’ve ever heard.  So everyone, get out your peace pipe, relax and join me around the fire for a little tribal metal.  Happy Listening.  Hails!

Istapp

15600_photo

In the arena of underground metal, there is no shortage of “active” artists that are in limbo instead of in the studio. Some of these bands are great. They are bands I refuse to give up on. Istapp is one of those bands.  A refreshing blend of melodic Swedish black metal and folk, Istapp’s recordings are a consecrated celebration of winter.  Istapp means icicle in Swedish.  I’d be hard pressed to find something in nature more metal than an icicle.  Not only is an icicle cold, it can fucking kill you.  Approximately 30 people a year are impaled to death by falling icicles.  That’s nothing to sniff at.

Istapp rivals the daunting omnipresence of the icicle with their 2010 release, Blekinge.  Few bands match the coldness achieved on Blekinge while maintaining the beautiful resonance of melody we find here.  There is a rawness to their sound, found in few melodic bands that eliminates an element of cheese so often celebrated in the world of folk metal.  Istapp is a novel amalgamation of Swedish black metal pioneers Dissection and Slavic Pagan Metal outfit Temnozor.  The band could set itself apart even more by focusing more on the folk elements of the sound, perhaps experimenting with instruments like the flute or horn.  The clean vocals, while sparse, are anthemic and highly impressive, leaving the listener wishing for more.  Not only will you be wanting more clean vocals whilst listening to the 2010 release, you will want more material.  Unfortunately there is not much.  Istapp has released three demos and a compilation entitled Koldens Union in addition to Blekinge.

While everything the band has released is worth listening to the band has been seemingly out of commission since 2010.  One can only discern that there have been problems with the lineup as Istapp did not begin as a one man project.  We can only hope that Istapp will soon record again, but for now I welcome you to join me in the frostbitten fury that is Istapp.  Happy Listening.  Hails!


http://www.myspace.com/istapp