Verikalpa – Tuoppitanssi Review

GenreFolk Metal
Release Date21 February 2020
Record LabelScarlet

Serving up another piece of melodeathy folk metal are Finland’s booze-fueled Verikalpa in their sophomore album, Tuoppitanssi. While I couldn’t tell you what in the fuck they’re singing about (well, I could because I read the album’s info sheet, but I really can’t say for sure), I can tell you that you’re in for a lively album with an edge. With strong melodies, a heavy rhythm section, and ferociously rough vocals, this style is hardly new, but it’s really fun it’ll probably pull you back at least once.

I can’t pinpoint the thing keeping Verikalpa from sounding like yet another generic offshoot of Korpiklaani, like so many folk bands do, but they have enough charm and individuality to steer clear of sounding too derivative. Regardless, the prevalence of the accordion is always a welcome trait. Weirdly enough, a good portion of Tuoppitanssi could be described as “viscious polka”; it’s hard, it’s gritty, and the vocals could peel the bark off a tree, but the accordion’s bounciness changes the entire feel.

Alternatively, when Tuoppitanssi isn’t in ska mode, it offers a pleasing variety. In fact, my favourite track on the album is ‘Varjosahti’, which is one of the album’s slower tunes (and a tad extra piratey). ‘Verimaat’ is also a notable track, largely due to those stupid-fast kicks. Otherwise, most of the tracks are up-tempo (like the blitzy ‘Karhunkaataja’), and there’s a pretty even split of 4/4 and 6/8, as you would expect from this style of music. That being said, the album is far from repetitive.

Fans of anything from Ensiferum to Vanir to Blodiga Skald will thoroughly enjoy Tuoppitanssi. It bites hard throughout its entirety but is catchy enough that you’ll be able to remember the songs without much effort. If you like drunk and bouncy, Verikalpa are right up your alley.

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Aereum – Tempest Of Time Review

GenreMeloDeath/Folk Metal (Pirate Metal)
Release Date11 January 2020
Record LabelIndependent

Germany’s newest metal pirates have come ashore with a debut that is nothing short of impressive. Tempest of Time sees Aereum crash onto the metal scene with nine swashbuckling tracks that are worth their weight in cursed gold. If melodic and aggressive is your thing, this album is exactly what you need!

I’m not gonna lie; when I first heard the vocals, I wasn’t sold. I’m usually not a huge fan of high, throaty rough vocals, and this album has plenty. But, after about a minute and a half, they grew on me. They’re sharp and piercing like the wind and they sound pissed off enough to embody even a buccaneer’s teen years. It might be an acquired taste for some, but it probably won’t take long until you’re hooked on this album like I was.

Tempest of Time begins with solid shanty riffs and countermelodies in ‘Digital Warfare’, and continues to ebb and flow like the sea; each track offers its own variety of feels and grooves, from the colossally-heavy ‘Just Pirates’ to the easier, folky ‘Modular Cowboy’. It’s actually amazing how Aereum have managed to do the melodeath/folk thing so well. The driving force is the riff-heavy guitarwork, which do far more than your usual chord-chugging, and the solos are sure to melt some faces. The drums also go beyond your typical grooves, thrashing about like a vicious shark. The track with my favourite drumming would be ‘The Eye of Bastet’, which also happens to be my favourite track overall. Seriously, they barely sit still for four fucking bars. It’s awesome.

It’s only February, but I’m calling this as one of the pirate (and folk) highlights of the year. It’s dynamic, super heavy, and it has huge relistenability. Easily the best nautical album I’ve heard in a long time. Be sure to catch this one, lest ye walk the plank!

(These jokes doing anything for you?)

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Power Metal: Immortal Guardian Begin Recording New Album

Immortal Guardian released their widely-acclaimed debut, Age of Revolution, in 2018. They took the US power metal scene by storm with their self-branded “super metal”, which combines elements of prog, power melodeath to create an over-the-top, epic intensity.

The band recently announced that they are beginning the work on their sophomore effort.

While the details remain hidden, it is set for a Fall release.

Brazilian-born vocalist Carlos Zema on the album:
“This is a very different album from our previous releases in that there’s a wide range of emotions involved. We’ve experienced our fair share of loss since the last release and a lot of life lessons were poured into this album, giving it a very real and personal vibe. From a technical vocal aspect, this is the first album I’ve ever recorded where I’ve spanned five octaves as a singer, and I’m excited for the world to hear the message and sound we’ve created together as a group.”

Guitarist/Keyboardist Gabriel Guardian:
“The recording process has been interesting to say the least. Working with a drummer over 2,000 miles away has its obstacles, but Justin and his drum engineer Jesse Zito made the experience way smoother than we imagined. Thanks to technology, video calls and hundreds of back-and-forth messages, we pulled off something that wouldn’t have been possible years ago. We’re incredibly proud of the new material and are looking forward to wrapping up the final mix with Joshua and getting some new music out for all the Guardians to hear!”

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Wilderun – Veil Of Imagination Review

GenreProgressive Folk Metal
CountryUSA (Boston)
Release Date1 November 2019
Record LabelIndependent

Not many bands can pull off an exceptional atmospheric album so, when one does, it always gets me excited about it. One of the few (and latest) this year to accomplish such a feat are Boston’s Wilderun with their third album, Veil of Imagination. It expertly conjures deep feelings like wonder, determination, aggression, hate, fear, reflection, and everything in between. With rich orchestrations supporting it, Veil of Imagination is as colourful as its album cover would have you believe.

One of the amazing things about Veils of Imagination is how it hangs between so many genres yet doesn’t quite fit definitively into any of them. This album has been the topic of a few of my conversations lately, and everyone I talk to has a different take on what they’d consider it as. Personally, I think it fits well enough under the banner of “progressive folk”, but friends of mine have fought me on this, instead calling it things like “epic progressive death”, “progressive symphonic”, or even “atmospheric death”. The thing I find fascinating isn’t the label itself (I hardly ever get hung up on metal subgenres because they’re not absolute), it’s the fact that everyone I’ve talked to seems to have had a different experience with the album, driving them to pick out different defining characteristics about it.

The truth is, there is no right and wrong, especially when it comes to Veils of Imagination. It’ll be flowing with a light, carefree melody over bright orchestrations or acoustic guitar one second then it’ll explode into insanely harsh blast beats and gutteral vocals the next. There’s a steady, haunting undertone to the album, but it’s more apparent at some times than others.

If there’s one downside to the album, it’s that it only really works if you listen to it all at once. Each song is dynamic and holds it own, sure, but to get that special, full impact, listening to the entire thing is a necessity.

So, if you want to hear one of the best metal albums of the entire year, make damn sure to give Veil of Imagination a spin. This is my first experience with Wilderun but, after this, I’m ready to dive into their previous work.

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Interview With Elvenking’s Aydan

When you think about folk metal nowadays you maybe think of different stuff. . . Bands like Korpiklaani or Ensiferum, which are more on the extreme side. I think we are still something a little bit different.

Folk metal icons Elvenking were instrumental in the creation of the folk metal scene. Despite a few stylistic changes throughout their 20+ year career, they have always maintained a high level of quality and folky energy in every album. The band released their tenth album, Reader of the Runes – Divination, only a few days ago, and they continue to prove their place at the forefront of the genre. In the midst of such a busy time, the band’s songwriter and guitarist, Aydan, gave me the pleasure of sharing his thoughts on the making of Divination.

Kane: So, Elvenking has been around since 1997, which makes it as old as I am! How have you seen the folk metal stage in change since then?

Aydan: It’s interesting because when we started as a band in 1997, basically there was no folk metal scene at all. I mean, the only folk metal band we knew of were Skyclad from Britain. The communication in the metal world was different from now. So obviously there were some extreme metal bands or black metal bands that had the influences on the folkloristic music and stuff like that but there wasn’t really any folk metal scene existing at all.

Nowadays we are considered one of the originators of the scene but at the time we didn’t have a clue of what was happening. We just did the music we love and we mixed our heavy metal influences with some music coming from the mountains nearby, so it was really something different. Through the years, then, a lot of bands came out and the so-called “folk metal scene” had and still has lots of success.

That is one of the reasons why, through the years, we moved away from the scene and we also did two, three albums that were very distant from that, because we felt like, you know, we started something and then other bands came out and had more success than us so we wanted to show that we were able to do different good things. But from Pagan Manifesto on we went back to the origins of the band, to what the idea of the band was, both musically and lyrically. And, well, we’re still here nowadays!

I can imagine it’d be completely different than it is today, where it seems like there’s a new folk metal album or band every other week from some random town in Eastern Europe or something!

Yeah, exactly, something like that. [laughs] So, it’s kind of weird because it seems like it’s something that’s very. . . I don’t know. This folk metal stuff is coming out of everywhere, basically, so of course at the time it was very different. But we still try to be different as much as possible. As unique as possible. When you think about folk metal nowadays you maybe think of different stuff, maybe more extreme or more rough, let’s say. Bands like Korpiklaani or Ensiferum, which are more on the extreme side. I think we are still something a little bit different.

Yeah, there’s not as many that are closer to power metal like you guys are. Maybe Wind Rose or something but I think that’s it for the more popular bands.

Yeah, exactly. I don’t think that there are as many bands that are similar to us. I mean, obviously we have strong power metal influences and also a lot of stuff coming from some of the extreme metal scene of the 90s, like Swedish death metal and so on, and so there is still something different from what is out there, especially for the vocals, for example. Like the approach to the vocals, stuff like that.

So we always try to be as unique as possible, even though “originality” is a pretty hard word to use in music in general, because there is nothing “original” anymore, probably. But at least we try to be as recognizable as possible.

Absolutely. On the note of being unique, the first thing I noticed about your new album Divination is that it’s pretty distinct from even a lot of your guys’ own work. I found it a lot more heavy and guitar-oriented. Is that something that you guys intentionally did?

Yes, absolutely. We felt that, through the years, we were always kind of losing a lot of parts of our music, like the guitar work, which was always hidden behind a wall of orchestration or stuff. We really wanted to have this time more focus on the guitarwork and stuff like that, and we noticed that in the past we used to put an overlay, you know, a lot of stuff that, in the end, you can barely hear. There were a lot of arrangements that were really cool to listen to on their own but in the whole song it was basically messy because they were moving the attention away from the important melodies or the rhythms that we wanted to hear.

So it is something that I believe you need to learn with time. You know, when you are young, you always try to put stuff on stuff to show that you are cool enough to do all the arrangements. [laughs] But in the end, what really is important is what you should be focusing on so, through the years, we tried to get away from a lot of useless stuff and try to be as basic as possible in order for the listener to be understand exactly what is happening. If you want to have some heavy guitars, the only thing is just to delete all the useless stuff around the orchestration. That’s the only way to make it work properly.

Yeah, I noticed that even all the way up to Pagan Manfesto that there were tons and tons of folk instruments in the background and you can’t clearly hear a lot of them, and the guitars are way in the background. So it’s really nice to be able to actually hear really cool guitar parts.

Yeah, exactly, that’s the reason. You know, maybe there is a folk instrument there, and you write the part and you record it and say, “Yeah, this sounds really cool,” but then, maybe it’s overlayed to the vocals, so you need to keep it very low, and then, even if it’s low, you distract from the vocals, so you put it even lower, and in the end there’s a lot of things surrounding it but you can’t really focus on anything, so what we did with this album was say, “Ok, do we need this part? Is it something that is fundamental?” No; it’s cool, but you cannot put your attention there if there’s something else going on. So we really put the guitars on top this time and, when there was space, we went for something else. But I’m really happy with the production of this album and finally we have reached this goal that we had for a lot of years.

As a huge fan of you guys, I obviously like this album pretty much as much as I love all your other stuff, but are you happy with how other fans and critics have received it?

Well, you know, the album has just been released; it’s just a couple of days out. But what we have seen so far is that the reaction from the press is overwhelming and really beyond any expectation. You know, I had the feeling that the work we did this time was pretty okay, that it was good, and we had a good feeling about it, but the reaction from the journalists and the press went really beyond any expectation and we are getting a lot of good words and great evaluations and stuff like that.

For example, we put out limited edition box sets for the album that basically sold out already. I had the impression that the press copies were too many and I talked to the record label and said, “Ok, let’s do less,” and they said, “No, let’s do this,” and we sold out on the preorders. And the reactions from the fans so far are amazing, I would say.

Has there been any real negative feedback or does everybody just love it?

[laughs] No, well, you always have negative reviews or something like that. To be sincere, so far I have seen probably one review which was, like, five out of ten, but I have read it – you know, I don’t really read the reviews. I did the work, you know, and I care about more of what the fans say.

Of course.

But the only thing I read was that one bad review, but it was really, from what I read, like, “I hate this kind of metal,” and I thought, you know, ok. Honestly, what we used to receive as negative feedback was always what we put out as the first singles because, when you put out a single or a video or something like that, it’s always difficult because you have to choose one song to reflect an entire album. I think we are still too old school and we have the impression that the song is the part of the whole album that you would need to listen from the first one to the last one, taking a certain journey through the songs and reading the lyrics and trying to understand what is happening.

So it is very difficult for us to choose single songs to represent the entire album. You never know if it should be a melodic one, a commercial one, a heavy one. Now, we have told the record label, “Choose what you want,” because everything we choose is not always the right choice. When we put out a single there is always someone complaining, “Oh, this is too melodic,”, “This is too that,”, “It’s not good enough,”. It should be the mirror of the album but often it is not like that. So this is something that happens often for an album, and it happened with this one, but that’s pretty normal, I would say.

So you guys have had a pretty stable lineup for the past few years, except for a couple drummers. Did that have a big impact on how the album turned out?

I don’t want to say, “Not really,” but as you probably know, me and Damna, our singer, are the ones who write the music, as we always did. So I don’t want to say that lineup changes can’t affect the music, but it really didn’t, in this case, because the songwriting was not affected.

The fact that we have great people, great musicians, amazing people is a plus, and, in terms of recording, especially in this album, everyone did amazing work, especially how Lancs played the drums and recorded them in the studio, because everything you hear is pure natural drums. It’s probably the first time that we never used any trigger or samples on the drums because his drumming is so consistent. When we gave the recordings in to Dan Swanö for the mixing, he was absolutely impressed about how the drums were recorded and said, “Ok, guys, I think this is the first time in my life that I won’t use any samples or trigger on the drums! Even though it’s a metal album, it needs to be respected how it was played.”

And we wanted to have a very 90s production, still modern but as natural as possible, so that was possible thanks to the performances of everyone in the band, so that was great.

Was the songwriting process for this album very different from how you’ve done previous albums or was is business as usual?

It was actually different for the very first time because this is the very first concept album that we have done, even in the past if we have done, you know, themed albums, like The Scythe, for example. So, for the very first time, there was less freedom in the songwriting, because we needed to have the music follow the lyrics follow the story follow the atmospheres of the story. So, the songwriting wasn’t as before where we were like, “I have this song, let’s put it in this part,” It was more like, “What part of the story does this feed? What mood of the story should this be? What kind of atmosphere do we need to explain this part of the story?” So it was pretty different, I would say, and also pretty challenging. And also this is just part of the concept, because there will be at least two more albums in a longer concept.

What was your favourite part about making Divination?

Uh, well, songwriting itself is always my favourite part because it is always surprising what we come out with. Every time we finish the songwriting of an album, I feel like I did everything possible for the album and like I have no force to write anything else in the future [laughs] because you just feel, like, empty and so on. And it’s always surprising when you come out with something new. You start from an idea to form a full song and the song then becomes something that really works and then, obviously, hearing the final result is always something that you don’t imagine when you start songwriting. You don’t have a clue where the journey will bring you or how the songs in your mind will really come out, in the end.

And why did you guys decide to make this string of concept albums?

Well, for some years we’ve always had the idea of doing a concept album based on something that we wanted to tell, but we never had the right story or time to do it, I don’t know. When we came up with a story and decided that it was the right one, it was immediately clear that one album wouldn’t have been enough to contain all the story, and that we need to do it in different chapters. So, the idea to create a story that is and will be contained in more albums like the chapter of a story is something that attracted us immediately and we felt it was the right choice to do right now in this moment.

You know, as I told you, from the Pagan Manifesto on it was almost like we were reborn as a band. We tried to go back and rediscover the passion we had when we founded the band back in the day when we were just a bunch of kids with the passion to play music and to create lyrics and stories around it, and we kind of lost this feeling and this passion through the years. But when we decided to restart from that point, we did two albums [Pagan Manifesto, Secrets of the Magick Grimoire] and thought that now was a good time for this. And at that point, to be sincere, the reaction of the people to the band was becoming better and better, so we felt that this was the time, if we wanted to do a project like this, and to do it as epic as possible. So, that was the reason.

What’s your favourite thing about Reader of the Runes – Divination?

Uh [laughs] I like the album. I like really like the fact that we did a concept album that isn’t boring like a lot of concept albums. You know, sometimes you tend to make it as grandiose as possible in order to make it big and something like that, but this is the first thing that we wanted to avoid. It’s not that we want to make a concept album that is very difficult or very complex or something like that. We wanted the people to listen to it and to create songs that could work also live and so on, so I’m very happy that we created single songs that work well on the live side or by themselves, but also that, if you listen to the album beginning to the end, you can feel that there is something going on and there is a story behind that has atmospheres that change as it goes from very romantic parts to very heavy ones.

Yeah, I think that’s my favourite thing, too, is that it works really well both as a concept album and even if you shuffle it into a playlist, where they’re still great songs on their own.

Yeah, exactly. That was one of our goals. Even if you shuffle it and listen to one song, you should enjoy it. And if you listen to the whole thing, you have maybe a different impression, but it’s working good.

Another thing I thought was really cool was the rune puzzle you guys released before the album was even announced. Whose idea was that?

Oh, that was an idea that came out, to be sincere, from our record company. We have a new girl in the company that is taking care of our promotion, and she is super super great. She was especially really into our idea of music and all the concepts we had and she’s a fan of black metal and stuff like that. It’s the first time we have had someone like that because usually a record company prefers music that is more melodic, and the idea we were bringing to the table really didn’t fit their way of seeing things. But since this girl came in, she came up with the puzzle things and we immediately felt a close cooperation with her and a close connection. So she took care of it. We really have to thank her. She’s really really great and did amazing work with us on the album.

So we’re just about out of time here, but I do have one more question. You’re the last remaining original member of Elvenking, so I think it’s pretty safe to say that you love it, but do you have any desire to pursue other projects or other genres?

[laughs] This is a good question! You know, I always felt that I wanted to concentrate one-hundred percent on Elvenking because it was my band and I founded it when I was a kid and especially because this is the music I always wanted to do. You know, back in the day, I didn’t find a band that really one-hundred percent fit my needs, because I love the power metal but also the more extreme stuff and acoustic folk and stuff like that, so I wanted to do something on my own. And, in the end, I think that especially with these last albums this was the music that I wanted to do.

So I never felt the need to do something else. But, your question is interesting because, just the other day I realized that I have a lot of songs that do not fit Elvenking at all. I write music here and there and there is stuff that cannot be put on an Elvenking album, and I have the idea that I want to record something on my own that will obviously be pretty distant from Elvenking. And, for sure, I think it will be something very atmospheric and aethereal, something like piano and vocals and acoustic stuff. And I think I will do something like that pretty soon.

I can’t wait to hear what that brings. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today!

A: Yes, thank you! It was a pleasure.

Elvenking’s tenth album, Reader of the Runes – Divination, is the first part of a multi-album concept. It’s available now on all major streaming platforms, or you can buy it from their >>website<<!

Elvenking – Reader of the Runes – Divination Review

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Unleash The Archers Announce New EP

Two years after the critically-acclaimed Apex, Canadian melodeathers Unleash the Archers have announced a new EP. Explorers will be released on 11 October 2019 under Napalm Records.

The EP (which is really a single) will consist of two tracks, both of which are covers of Canadian songs.

01: Northwest Passage
02: Heartless World

Here’s what the band has to say about the first track, ‘Northwest Passage’:
“This song means a lot to us as a band, we like to put it on during those long drives on tour and it always brings us right back home. We originally recorded it to be a bonus track for our last full length album Apex, but we loved the track so much we knew it needed special treatment. We held on to it for a bit and eventually decided to release it as its own 7″ vinyl EP with another Canadian cover song as the B side. The song ‘Northwest Passage’ is all about touring through Canada, which Stan Rogers did a lot, and how it equates to being an explorer looking for the passage all those years ago. It really hits home with us, we’ve toured through Canada too many times to count, so we know just how Stan was feeling. That’s where the name of the EP came from too; every time we hit the road on tour it’s like we too become Explorers, with the great big unknown stretching out before us.”

Along with the EP announcement, the band have also announced their participation in Full Metal Cruise 2020, which starts in Kiel, Germany, on 23rd September 2020, alongside Sonata Arctica and label colleagues Legion Of The Damned.

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Elvenking – Reader Of The Runes – Divination Review

GenreFolk Metal
Release Date30 August 2019
Record LabelAFM

It’s not very often that a band that’s been around for more than five albums maintains a steady level of greatness in every release. I’m not just talking about a solid discography with album or two being considered “passable”, but rather a track record in which every album is, at the very least, great. It’s not unheard of by any means, and it’s ultimately contingent on whom you ask, but there are certainly some bands that are widely-regarded to just be really fucking good.

For us in the metal community, names like Iron Fire, Blind Guardian, Zeppelin, or Queen might make the cut. However, for myself, I would put Elvenking at the top of my no-less-than-great list. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re my favourite band of all time (although, they are close), but it means that I think that they’re a band that is almost incapable of putting out something even close to bad; they haven’t yet.

So, it should come as no surprise that the folk masters’ tenth album, Reader of the Runes – Divination, kicks all sort of ass, pagan-style. Fans will be pleased that Divination still retains the core Elvenking sound: a primarily-pop/punk vocal style, folk melodies, proggy song structure, and a power metal energy. Conversely, though, the album is as much a breath of fresh air as it is an Elvenking album, as it takes the band in two directions that they haven’t really explored in depth before; the road of Divination is generally darker and heavier than their previous material, and it also brings a whole concept that tells of a journey into a mystical world of runes and magic.

Aside from the songwriting and atmosphere, the instrumentation (obviously) is what mainly contributes to the difference in sound that you’ll find here compared to every album prior. There are huge choirs, such as in ‘Reader of the Runes – Book I’, and plentiful vocal tracks that seem to substitute what used to be rampant folk instruments. Additionally, the guitars have stepped up from the background right into the forefront as the driving force of the songs, even more so than the violin, acoustic guitar, string tracks, or drums combined. Speaking of the drums, Lancs‘ style is a lot steadier and heavier than the band’s previous patter-style drummer, Symohn, who parted ways with the band in 2017. This difference was obviously also present in Secrets of the Magick Grimoire, but it’s even more apparent next to the guitar’s new-found presence. Finally, the folk influences are dialed down quite a bit here, too, so the result of all of this is a heavier, more intense, more metal album.

In case you didn’t already assume, Divination has a bit of a variety to offer. Just kidding, it’s all over the fucking map. There are more typical tracks like ‘Heathen Divine’ (which is very Pagan Manifesto) and the laid back ‘Eternal Eleanor’, but there are also songs that stretch the boundaries a bit more, due to all the stuff in that big paragraph above. Most notably, however, we have ‘Malefica Doctrine’, which is drenched in melodeath and stands as the heaviest song in Elvenking’s twenty-plus-year career.

While I wouldn’t call this one Elvenking’s best (because that title would go to Pagan Manifesto), it’s still a killer album. The concept fits, it’s super dynamic, and it has a high headbangability factor. If you were hoping for a very folky album, you won’t get it here. However, I think that old fans will enjoy the hell out of Divination and newcomers will get hooked on it, too.

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Scimitar – Shadows Of Man Review

GenrePagan Metal
Release Date23 August 2019
Record LabelIndependent

Canadian pagan metal warriors Scimitar have been around for just over a decade. Early on in their career, they released their debut album, Black Waters, but the band took a bit of a break soon after. Now, nine years later, the band have finally unleashed their sophomore album. Shadows of Man is gritty, furious, and packs way more variety into it than I would have ever expected. With a sound that’s in the realm of Ensiferum and Vanir (although far less refined, production-wise), Scimitar’s combination of death, black, and folk elements will be welcome with any fan of the dark side of folk metal.

Scimitar’s strength lies in their ability to craft a massive sound as a whole. The band mostly moves together in one direction at a time, which allows for a lot of power to be propelled at once. Additionally, melody is far down on the list of priorities, and what melody there is is driven only by the lead guitar, which is responsible for most of the emotion that comes out of whatever atmosphere the rest of the band is holding.

Shadows of Man begins with a dynamic instrumental (which, by the way, is an actual song, and not just minute-long bullshittery) before changing pace with ‘Knights Collapse’, which is pretty laid back. The growled vocals are almost rapped, which is cool, and the overall feel in this one is distinctly different from everything else the album offers. As the album progresses there are plenty of changes but its raw, rhythmic, aggressive energy remains fully consistent.

One thing you’ll notice about Shadows of Man is that it gets heavier as it goes on. While the earlier tracks are lighter and more melodic in comparison, the album ramps the intensity way the fuck up upon entering ‘Shadows of Man II: Cataclysm’: a melodic death metal landscape where dissonant chords and harshness take dominance.

There isn’t much that I don’t like about this album, but there are a few favourites for me. The solos are great, with the solo section in ‘Imperium’ being my favourite. Also, while the whole album is very dynamic, this reaches a peak in ‘Where Ancient Spectres Lie’, where we’re bombarded with time changes and feel changes, from its immensely depressive intro to the brighter end section. My favourite aspect about Shadows of Man, however, is the bass; you can hear it well and the lines are awesome. That probably seems like a weird favourite to pick in a record like this, but, fuck it. I love it.

In a departure from their original sound, Shadows of Man elevates Scimitar to a higher, more mature level. Back with their first effort (and a solid effort it is!) in years, Scimitar have sliced their way back onto the scene.

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Steignyr – Myths Through The Shadows Of Freedom Review

GenreFolk Metal
Release Date14 June 2019
Record LabelArt Gates

The Celtic folk/death outfit Steignyr are back with their fourth album to date: Myths Through the Shadows of Freedom. Like their former works, Shadows of Freedom hits hard with rough riffs, vicious vocals, and a bone-raw epic sound that’ll have you eager to ride into battle.

At times, such as in parts of ‘You’ll Never Be Forgotten’ and ‘Frost Wolf’, there seems to be too much going on, which can be detrimental in a more lo-fi album such as this. This issue usually only arises when the keys and orchestrations are too numerous, but there are times when the vocals suffer from over-saturation, too.

That being said, Shadows of Freedom‘s songs are, for the most part, really good. There’s a pleasing amount of variety due to the folk-to-death ratio constantly being played with, allowing for various degrees of heaviness and melody. The song lengths also vary quite a bit and there’s even a cool instrumental, ‘Moonlight Forest’, in the middle of the album. However, there is one song specifically that is just plain bad; ‘Black Rain’ seems to drag on for an eternity (which is weird, considering it’s one of the shortest songs on the album) and the chorus is, honestly, super painful.

Stepping back onto the positive side of things, my favourite tracks on the album, the titular track and ‘Those Who Lie’, kick all sorts of ass. The former doesn’t arrive until the album nears its end, but this dynamic eight-minuter traverses many musical landscapes and, while there are numerous clashing parts, it all comes together without sounding muddy. The latter is just plain fun and is probably the best song to kick the album off.

Although it’s far from revolutionary (as there are countless bands that are strikingly similar), Myths Through the Shadows of Freedom will be a sure hit with fans of the gritty side of folk metal. Steignyr definitely have the recipe for greatness in their grasp, but a bit of refinement is needed to take them to the next level. That being said, this is far from a bad album, and if you aren’t pumped up by it’s bold, rugged manliness, that’s on you.

Steignyr – Whisper Calling (Art Gates)

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Eluveitie – Ategnatos Review

GenreMeloDeath/Folk Metal
Release Date5 April 2019
Record LabelNuclear Blast

In more than a decade of making folk metal, Eluveitie have never released a record that I didn’t like. Some are definitely worse than others, with 2017’s Evocation II – Pantheon being on the bottom of my list, but even it is a good album. So, it should come as no surprise that their eighth album, Ategnatos, is pretty fucking solid.

As usual, Eluveitie’s many musicians produce a rich sound that’s full to the brim with different elements. Their mix of clean and harsh vocals, crunchy guitars, traditional instruments, and killer drumming accommodates heavy blast beats as well as vibrant folk melodies. While there’s not a single player that is less than excellent, female vocalist (and harper/mandola-er) Fabienne Erni is the highlight for me. This is her second album with the group after she replaced Anna Murphy (who left to form Cellar Darling) in 2017. While both are great vocalists, I do prefer Erni; she projects a bit more power than Murphy and I think she suits Eluveitie better.

One minor thing that I really, really enjoy is the chorus that’s introduced in the beginning of the titular track and then returns in the closers, ‘Rebirth’, and ‘Eclipse’ (although, ‘Eclipse’ is just an atmospheric vocal extension of ‘Rebirth’). It’s a small point, but it’s not very often that a metal album will have a recurring melody, so it’s a nice touch. It’s also catchy as all hell and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head for a day and a half.

Eluveitie – Ategnatos (Nuclear Blast)

Ategnatos is incredibly fluid. Each track transitions perfectly into the next, sometimes assisted by a short instrumental track (‘Ancus’, ‘The Silvern Glow’, ‘Trinoxtion’). It’s also very dynamic, with most songs containing everything from furious blast beats, folk instrumentals, and pulled back sections. The only borderline-mediocre track on the album is ‘Breathe’, which is basically a typical alt metal track. Other than that, they all go together quite well.

Ok, I know I literally just said that all of the songs go together, which they do, but there are a couple that are especially distinct from the rest. The first (also my favourite) is ‘Ambiramus’, which is easily the funnest track on the album. The flute melody is uplifting, the beat is bouncy, and the whole thing is just a blast. The second would be the aforementioned ‘Eclipse’. Erni leads this vocal feature with a stunning, mournful beauty and shamelessly shows off her versatile chops. ‘Eclipse’ may only be the same repeated chorus over some wind and distant chords, but she still manages to accomplish so much with it.

Portraying nothing but fantastic folkery, Ategnatos has definitely made it into my top Eluveitie albums. Its pounding highs and foreboding lows create a unique, reflective atmosphere. On the flip side, the lively instrumentals and choruses could easily be danced to. This juxtaposition is typical of Eluveitie, but they’re damn good at it. Make sure to listen to this one next month!

Originally written for

Eluveitie – Ambiramus (Nuclear Blast)

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