Canada’s answer to Arkona comes with the name of Valfreya, and their debut full-length release titled “Path to Eternity” showcases the band’s talents. Fronted by Crook, the band’s charismatic female vocalist, Valfreya delivers a good 50 minutes of an intense mixture of Melodic Black Metal with Folk Metal elements, perfectly balanced to create epic moments similar to the ones created by bands like Wintersun, Equilibrium and Turisas.
With the intro track bleeding into “Deity's Grace”, the band quickly establishes a very regal sound with a crystal clear production. Gradually increasing its intensity, “Path to Eternity” is a very well-crafted album that showcases a promising band with a very rich sound. Alternating between angelic clean vocals and demonic harsh screams, Crook does an excellent job in carrying the band through the 10 tracks presented in this release.
With a very lush and elaborate sound, today we have Llvme and their second full-length release “Yia De Nuesu”. Mixing elements from Doom, Folk, and Black/Death Metal, this band has a very rich and entertaining sound that will blow you away with excellent melancholic passages and sheer brutality moments.
Opening with the majestic “1188-1230” track, this release immediately establishes a melancholic atmosphere full of aggression and emotions. The female vocals and violins in this track are excellent and nicely contrast the heavy elements of the track. “Helmantica” brings forth a more aggressive stance from the band and some very Dimmu Borgir-esque keyboards. The riffing is very well crafted and the drums are stellar. “Vettonia” has that same Folk Metal vibe that bands like Eluveitie exploit to no end (the bagpipes), but it somewhat feels different with some nice stop-and-go moments and the direct Amorphis ‘rip-off’ section at the end of the track.
After reviewing what felt like thousands of uninspired Viking/Folk Metal releases in 2011, we now find ourselves wondering where these kinds of albums are in 2012. After the disappointing latest release of Eluveitie, it is Heidevolk’s turn on the hot seat. “Batavi” marks the band’s fourth full-length release and it shows great maturity from the band in terms of songwriting, but not too much in terms of diversity.
Using almost no ‘fancy’ Folk instruments, the band relies on powerful and catchy guitar riffs to carve their own sound. While we would have immediately discarded this album if we heard a fucking hurdy gurdy, but Heidevolk delivers a very well-targeted riffing assault that will appeal to fans of bands like Tyr, Falkenbach and Moonsorrow. For over 39 minutes, “Batavi” delivers very traditional and ‘simple’ songs that are pretty solid due to their catchiness.
After their highly popular and very well crafted “Everything Remains as It Never Was”, Eluveitie returns with another dosage of ….more of the same. If you liked the previous release, “Helvetios” will feel very familiar and you will surely enjoy it as a worthy continuation. However, if you are looking for something different this is not the place to look for it.
Don’t get us wrong, Eluveitie’s music is very well crafted and enjoyable but after 4-5 songs we find ourselves wondering if they all have been the same. In “Helvetios” we noticed the traditional structure of all Eluveitie albums and some songs like “Scorched Earth” are nice to change the monotony of the release, but then they are followed by tracks like “Meet the Enemy” that are just more of the same.
With the current world filled with countless releases that sound very much alike, Nordheim makes their contribution in that category with their Folk/Viking Metal release “Lost in the North”. Don’t get us wrong, the band does a good job in making high-intensity, well-crafted music, but they lack the creativity to actually have a sound of their own.
Featuring a mash-up of Thyrfying, Turisas, Moonsorrow, Tyr, etc, the band has a very intense sound that pounds through 10 tracks with excellently executed instrumentation, but this is as far as it goes. The choir-like structures are very typical, the keyboards are very typical, the screams are also very typical, even the basic melodies of the songs are just the same we have heard back. Yes, we agree that the band is very aggressive and has a high-intensity approach to the genre, but this has also been already done.
Just one year after their excellent release “Andromeda Awaiting”, Nucleus Torn returns with another brilliant excursion into Avant-garde Folk Metal but now with a Progressive twist. Making homage to 70’s Progressive Rock/Metal bands, “Golden Age” is a lush release that will intoxicate you since the first minute with its very intricate and yet exquisite songs.
Being considerably more diverse and exciting than any previous Nucleus Torn release, “Golden Age” delivers six beautifully crafted tracks that showcase the band’s ability in combining stunning musical passages with harmonious vocals. With Fredy Schnyder handling most of the instrumentation and the production work, “Golden Age” sounds as good as you can ever imagine Nucleus Torn sounding.
As another entry into the Folk Metal scene, today we have Italy’s Furor Gallico and the re-release of their debut self-titled album through Massacre Records. While being almost the same as all other Folk Metal releases you could think of, Furor Gallico does manage to craft a few memorable songs and passages through this 58 minute release.
Immediately after the cliché intro track, “Venti Di Imbolc” delivers powerful blows of Death Metal growls nicely paired with distorted guitar. Here, the mixture of folk and Metal elements is pretty well done since it does not sound weak or watered down like in most current bands, however, it sounds a lot like Eluveitie. The Folk passages are very typical of the genre in songs like “Anciente Rites”, “Cathubodva”, and “The Gos Have Returned”, but the nice contrast with aggressive parts, clean vocals and different elements give them a bit of a boost versus your run-of-the-mill Folk Metal band.
Two years have passed after their impressive “Goi, Rode, Goi!” album and Arkona is finally back with an even better release names “Slovo”. Featuring even more engaging Pagan/Folk Metal compositions, the Russian quintet keeps improving in astronomical proportions compared to their earlier material. “Slovo” delivers a hefty dose of both beautiful Folk and aggressive compositions that deserve to be heard.
Just as “Az’” opens this release, we start getting a natural high of epic elements thanks to the excellent instrumentation and the crystal clear production behind this release. Not wasting any time, “Arkaim” delivers powerful Black Metal-esque opening riffs and transforms into lush vocal arrangements. Masha’s clean vocals are mesmerizing and when paired with the choir, they just sound even more dominant.
As a clear example of finding a formula that works and sticking with it until you bore people to death, today we have Svartsot’s latest release “Maledictus Eris”. In this album the band takes a step backward from a promising career to a limbo-like place where they play the same song over and over for a whole album.
In a completely different way than on their previous release “Mulmets Viser”, Svartsot lacks imagination and direction in “Maledictus Eris”. We might venture to say that is the relatively short time between albums (one year give or take), but the band makes a very poor effort in changing things up and creating something worth purchasing, especially with the overcrowded Folk/Viking/Pagan Metal scene these days.
Hailing from Iceland, today we have Skálmöld and their debut album “Baldur”. Having signed to Napalm Records, it shows some signs of the quality of this fairly unknown band. When Folk/Viking Metal bands are a dime a dozen, it is nice to hear some bands that have something else to bring to the table and Skálmöld does a good job in leaving us with a promising debut album.
Mixing many different influences into their music, the first thing to standout is that almost no song in this release sounds a like. The band mixes catchy choir-like sections, engaging guitar solos and powerful riffing to perfection and creates a very epic and untraditional atmosphere that will surely appeal to fans of the genre that are tired of bands playing the same thing over and over.