Verikalpa – Tuoppitanssi Review

Score7.5/10
GenreFolk Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime46:16
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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Scimitar – Shadows Of Man Review

Score8/10
GenrePagan Metal
CountryCanada
Runtime48:57
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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Eluveitie – Ategnatos Review

Score9/10
GenreMeloDeath/Folk Metal
CountrySwitzerland
Runtime1:00:19
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 metal-observer.com

Eluveitie – Ambiramus (Nuclear Blast)

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Brymir – Wings of Fire Review

Score8.5/10
GenreSymphonic MeloDeath Metal
CountryFinland
Runtime47:22
Release Date8 Mar 2019
Record LabelRanka Kustannus

I’ve said before (as I’m sure many others have) that melodic death metal is just extreme power metal with harsh vocals. Nowhere is this more apparent in Finnish outfit Brymir, whose rough vocals are the only thing holding it back from being outright power metal. The keyboards are many, the guitars are clean, and it’s epic as all hell. Axeman Joona Bj√∂rkroth once again demonstrates his fearsome shredding skill (which is fortunate, because Battle Beast’s upcoming No More Hollywood Endings all but denied him the chance to play to his capabilities).

I must say, even if I try I can’t quite compare Brymir directly to anything else because of how blatantly unique it is. The closest band that I know of would probably be Wintersun, but even they aren’t very similar. So, in that department, Brymir scores serious points. However, even though each song is very dynamic, with booming highs to placid lows and everything in between, there’s a limited amount of variety among the song selection. That isn’t really an issue, though, because the songs are so fucking good.

Wings of Fire has a lot to offer for the power metal fan and extreme metal fan alike. The guitar melodies and solos are often uplifting and immensely impressive, but there’s no shortage of doom-inducing choirs and intense blast beats, as in ‘Sphere of Halcyon’ and ‘Ride on, Spirit’. Overall, there’s a fifty-fifty split between the symphonic and metal elements, which would make the music more accurately described as soundtrack metal than melodic death metal.

On a side note, one thought that I haven’t been able to shake is the fact that, aside from the vocals, pretty much every song sounds like a boss battle theme. Seriously, just try to tell me that you don’t notice it, too; all the orchestral parts and pounding drums make me feel like I’m about to get my ass handed to me in Dark Souls or something (yes, I know that there are no “pounding drums” in Dark Souls, but I digress).

There are few highlights for me on this record because it’s very much a team effort. That being said, the opener, ‘Gloria in Regum’, is my favourite track. It hits fast and hard, with chugging riffs and epic choirs, and the rhythm section shots are excellent. It also features Battle Beast’s Noora Louhimo (although you’d never notice her) and a wicked solo from Bj√∂rkroth.

With three albums so far, Brymir has never failed to produce something individual and new. Wings of Fire is an exceptional piece of work, and its blend of electronics, death metal, and orchestras feels natural and allows a richly deep sound. This group has a bright future ahead and, if their next album is half as entertaining as this one, I eagerly await their next release.

Brymir – Wings of Fire (Ranka Kustannus)

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