Eric the Red: Týr

Rating: 90%

Eric_the_red_re-release_cover.jpgReleased in 2003 and released in 2006, “Eric the Red” is a unique take on European traditional folk songs and tales. Musically, this album is a combination of Folk and Viking Metal with some Progressive influences. It also has some of the Power and Epic Metal elements that are blended nicely into Týr’s brand of Heavy Metal. One thing is for sure, Týr will leave you wanting to know more about the traditional themes that are the subject of their lyrics.

The song structures are very complex, loosing more of the power chord and going for more of riffs that are almost along the lines of scales. Think Iron Maiden. The music itself isn’t as heavy as most Viking Metal bands are as many of them fall into the Death Metal realm, but along the lines of traditional Heavy Metal.  Again, think of early Iron Maiden or Manowar. This album is rich on harmony and melody from the music to the vocals. It also seems to have some melodic melodies to it as well.

Vocally, there are chants and songs written in poetic manor that tells story of those yesterdays. The arrangements of lyrics are both inspiring and epic along with those melodic and majestic chorus lines. The chorus really makes you want to sing out loud and you’ll hear inside you mind because of how catchy they are. It’ll turn you into a Pagan or Heathen when your done.

Vocalist and guitarist Heri Joensen delivers a great performance on this record. I really admire his vocal style and song writing capabilities. Also shredding on the ax is Terji Skibenæs. Keeping pace and time is bassist Gunnar H. Thomsen and drummer Kári Streymoy whom I must say really give this brand of Viking Metal that tasteful Progressive complex of off beats. 

 

Track listing:

1. “The Edge” 7:44
2. “Regin Smiður” Traditional Faroese 6:08
3. “Dreams” 5:32
4. “The Wild Rover” Traditional Irish 4:12
5. “Stýrisvølurin” Traditional Faroese 6:57
6. “Ólavur Riddararós” Traditional Faroese 4:36
7. “Rainbow Warrior”  5:28
8. “Ramund Hin Unge” Traditional Danish 4:31
9. “Alive” 7:24
10. “Eric the Red” 7:42
11. “God of War” 6:23
12. “Hail to the Hammer” 3:49

Eld: Enslaved

Rating: 75%

enslaved_eldI’ve been into Viking Metal for over two decades now. One of the bands in Viking Metal that one will hear about is Enslaved. When I gather a list of bands to check out, this was among that list. So, I went to Record and Tape Traders and began my exploration into this genre. “Eld” was my first exposure to this band. the personell for this album is guitarist & keyboardist Ivar Bjørnson, vocalist & bassist Grutle Kjellson, and drummer Harald Helgeson.

There is decent mixture of acoustic and electric elements in the instrumentation of the music. There’s an balance of clean vs. dirty vocals that don’t detract from the overall style of Black/Viking Metal. Although, Black Metal in nature, the song structures feature melodies ranging from mid tempo sections to the extremely up beat and fast in nature song structures.  Think of the word “epic.” There are influences of Progressive music in this release. So this isn’t a stand alone Black Metal record.

There is some really great musicianship on this album from the riffs, leads, bass, to the drumming. The guitars are very gritty as well as the bass. There’s somewhat of a crunch that brings out the heaviness of these two instruments. Some of the guitar works seem to be a bit complex. Another stand out trait is the melody and how in certain areas of the music, it becomes more atmospheric or melodic. The overall sound remains very raw, however, there is some texture to the it.

Track listing:

1. “793 (Slaget om Lindisfarne)” (“793 (The Battle of Lindisfarne)”) 16:10
2. “Hordalendingen” (“The Man from Hordaland”) 5:19
3. “Alfablot” (“Sacrifice to the Elves”) 6:33
4. “Kvasirs blod” (“The Blood of Kvasir”) 7:51
5. “For lenge siden” (“A Long Time Ago”) 8:08
6. “Glemt” (“Forgotten”) 8:04
7. “Eld” (“Fire”) 6:36

Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa (As Shadows We Walk in the Land of the Dead): Moonsorrow

Rating: 95%

Varjoina_kuljemme_kuolleiden_maassa.jpgIn 2011, Moonsorrow released “Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa.”  I have always respected Moonsorrow for their huge epic and powerful sound. And this album doesn’t disappoint. Moonsorrow has added a another great noteworthy album to their discography. Although, consistent with regards to their genre, Moonsorrow seems to make it work well. The only disappointment that I have with this album is the small fillers or the interludes that are under two minutes long. I know that those interludes lead into the much larger sagas.

Musicianship is very good. The guitar riffs, the bass lines and the powerful drumming along with the keyboards gives this album a great full sound. Vocally, this is another great piece. Although, this album lacks lead guitars, it’s still a great album. Each musician is very talented and each brings that piece to the band that is needed to make a great Heavy Metal band.

Song structures are intense. Moonsorrow doesn’t disappoint when it comes to blending elements of Black Metal and Folk influenced melodies together. The music is very full, rich and filled with content. Each song, excluding the interludes, are vibrant and in some cases sound very complex. For their length, it’s almost as if you’re on a journey that never disappoints. I still love the large choir and the orchestra mixed with those Folk instrumentation. The jaw harp is another added touch that makes the music. There’s lot’s of great melodies and yes, harmony.

This album is not only a great Moonsorrow album, but it’s also a great Folk Metal album too. Moonsorrow is one of those bands that continues to define this genre that we call a sub-genre of Black Metal into it’s own category.

Track listing:

1. “Tähdetön” Starless 12:44
2. “Hävitetty” Ravaged 1:34
3. “Muinaiset” The Ancient Ones 11:43
4. “Nälkä, väsymys ja epätoivo” Hunger, Weariness and Despair 1:12
5. “Huuto” The Scream 15:58
6. “Kuolleille” For the Dead 1:35
7. “Kuolleiden maa” The Land of the Dead 16:22

Kivenkantaja (“Stonebearer”): Moonsorrow

Rating: 90%

moonsorrowIn 2003, Moonsorrow released their third album entitled “Kivenkantaja.”  This album is a bit different than their previous albums with regards that it add a dash of Progressive Metal into their main sound of Folk Black Metal. The end result isn’t to bad. When I first heard this album, I had mixed feelings about it musically. To me, there seemed to be some minor flaws in the overall production and then it hit me. It was the Prog influences that I was hearing. Knowing that, I went back and re-listened to it and this time around, I really enjoyed this album. But some of the flaws are still there.

First, this album seems to lack a bit of the raw edge to the overall approach. However, with that said, the album has a lot of content and is full. The mixing just doesn’t do the album justice. But that is only on a few of the songs. The vocals seem to be pushed further into the background rather than more toward the front of the music. Secondly, the overall keyboards also seem to be lacking a bit with regards to adding to that epic sound. But then again, this could be from the Prog influences that I hear. Some of the riffs are a bit weak.

But what this album lacks, there are other strong areas that make this album really unique and enjoyable. For one, the epic sound and song structures are there. Moonsorrow really does a great job when it comes to balancing the Folk and Black Metal portions of their genre.  I really do like the longer songs that Moonsorrow does and how they manage to not bog it down as they keep playing. Secondly, I enjoy the way Moonsorrow  adds that traditional sound of Folk into their music. There’s nothing like hearing a heavy and distorted song and then without notice, the Folk instrumentation begins to play. It makes the music more of a journey and adds to the listening experience. When the album is finished, it leaves you wanting to hear more. This quality is missing from many of the Black Metal bands out there.

Musically, again, this is a good album as I mentioned. The song structures are well balanced and defined. Some of the structures are complex. So let’s break it down. The first track, “Raunioilla” has the sound and introduction of a classic Moonsorrow song. It’s long, slow and heavy. But then you hear the accordion setting the melody and adding harmony to the overall sound. The overall vocal work does seem to be in the background. The overall musicianship is very good.

“Unohduksen lapsi” took me a while to warm up to. This is where you really hear the Prog influences. There’s a lot of weird riffs and timing going on during the bridges. But, this song although, has a heavy sound to it, the guitars seem to be not as strong. The melody does flow nicely. It does have a strong orchestra background to it.

“Jumalten kaupunki/Tuhatvuotinen perintö”  is a fantastic song. Lot’s of good instrumentation. The bridge is very weird leading into the chorus. But, the choirs are excellent. “Kivenkantaja” is a fun journey and is a classic Moonsorrow song. The arrangements are fantastic. I love the epic and big sound that this song has.

“Tuulen tytär/Soturin tie” I absolutely love. It begins with a rolling of the piano keys. That’s right, Black Metal done with beauty. It follows with the accordion and simple sticks keeping the beat. The jaw harp comes in. About a 1/3 of the way through the song, the electric heavy riffs come in. I love the almost spoken lyric and the strong beefy chorus.

“Matkan lopussa” is the last track which features Petra Lindberg performing the female vocals. This song is fantastic and is well done. The accordion and jaw harp really makes the mood of the song. Combined by the big male choirs.

Track listing:

1. “Raunioilla” (“At the Ruins”) 13:36
2. “Unohduksen lapsi” (“Child of Oblivion”) 08:17
3. “Jumalten kaupunki/Tuhatvuotinen perintö” (“City of the Gods/A Thousand Years of Heritage”) 10:42
4. “Kivenkantaja” (“Stonebearer”) 07:39
5. “Tuulen tytär/Soturin tie” (“Daughter of the Wind/Way of the Warrior”) 08:36
6. “Matkan lopussa” (“At the Journey’s End”) 04:54

Voimasta ja kunniasta (“Of Strength and Honor”): Moonsorrow

Rating: 100%

Voimasta_ja_Kunniasta.jpgThis was the record that attracted me to Moonsorrow back in 2001 when it was released. The epic sound with the raspy vocals and strong choirs pulled me not only into Moonsorrow, but it introduced me to Folk Metal and Viking Metal during a time when I thought that Heavy Metal was getting dull. This was during the wake of Grunge and Nu Metal had begun playing itself out. Both, Groove and Sludge Metal were just still heavily underground. Nothing good was one the radio. Then I heard this album on Serious radio. I was blown away!!!!

Musically, I love the melody which is very strong throughout the music, especially the opening track. Lot’s of good harmony within the music as well. The instrumentation of the traditional Heavy Metal instruments along with the keyboards, accordion, and mouth harp surprisingly, get along well. Lot’s of great tempos in each track some that feature Black Metal mixed with Polka and Folk music adds to the listening experience. It’s both, very dark and bright. It’s also fun and when the last track is finished, you wish it wasn’t over yet. The strong choirs and strong hand claps add a certain appeal of class to the overall music. The song structures are very good.  There’s some really good riffs and although, this album lacks leads, it’s still a very good album.

Musicianship is exceptional. Bassist and vocalist Ville Sorvali takes hold of the music with his raspy vocal style. His bass lines are very strong throughout the entire album. Guitarist, mouth harpist, accordionist, keyboardist, and vocalist Henri Sorvali adds to the overall sound and style. The other instruments he plays really does compliment the overall sound of the music. Drummer Marko Tarvonen is great at the skins. His tempos and signatures are dead on. Guitarist Mitja Harvilahti rounds out the rest of the band.

Track listing:

1. “Tyven” (“Serene”) 01:52
2. “Sankarihauta” (“Warrior’s Grave”) 07:41
3. “Kylän päässä” (“A Village Away”) 07:38
4. “Hiidenpelto/Häpeän hiljaiset vedet” (“Field of the Devil/The Silent Waters of Shame”) 09:20
5. “Aurinko ja kuu” (“The Sun and the Moon”) 08:14
6. “Sankaritarina” (“Warrior’s Tale”) 13:50

De strijdlust is geboren (The Lust for Combat Is Born): Heidevolk

Rating: 85%

heidevolkI wouldn’t describe this as Heavy Metal music, but rather Folk Rock with Folk Metal influences. It does lean heavily on Folk influences within the song structures and melodies. But, what we have here is a Folk Rock band from the Netherlands that does a great job of promoting their Culture and Heritage through it’s music.

Musicianship is pretty solid. Heidevolk features two vocalists Joris Boghtdrincker and Jesse Vuerbaert. Jesse Vuerbaert also plays the flute. Rounding out the other positions is bassist Paul Braadvraat, drummer Joost Westdijk, guitarist Niels Beenkerver, and guitarist Sebas Bloeddorst who also contributes the tambourine and mouth harp.

Song structures are decent. The verses all feature clean vocal work with big chorus lines. The instrumentation is is very even keel which is what bogs this album down in spots, but the traditional folk instrumentation makes up for that. The sound of the band is a bit more polished than raw or grit that one would expect from this genre of music. There are some Black Metal traits on this album, and the Folk style melodies do bridge that gap to make it a more darker sound. But other songs are strictly Folk music with some Rock music influences to give it a heavy boost. The leads are pretty decent, even though they are used more as filler or fill ins in the song structures.

Not a bad attempt here to bring the Dutch traditions into the world of Folk Metal. All of the songs are sung in the band’s native tongue. But the music will carry you on that journey to the point that you really don’t really notice the Dutch language being sung. Again, Folk Metal is about tradition and culture which is what makes this genre so unique to the point that one likes it or one just can’t stand it.

 

Track listing:

1. “Krijgsvolk” (“People of Battle”) 2:48
2. “Vale ouwe” (“Rugged Old One”) 5:42
3. “Het Gelders volkslied” (“The Gueldrian Anthem”) 3:42
4. “Winteroorlog” (“Winter War”) 7:07
5. “En wij stappen stevig voort” (“And Strongly We March On”) 3:10
6. “Furor Teutonicus” (“Teutonic Fury”) 5:16
7. “Het bier zal weer vloeien” (“The Beer Will Flow Again”) 3:44
8. “Gelre 838, Wychaert” 7:11
9. “Hengist en Horsa” (“Hengist and Horsa”) 5:12

By the Sword of My Father: Folkearth

Rating: 90%

By_the_Sword_of_My_Father.jpgFolkearth is a side project band that brings musicians from all over the world together to play Folk, Pagan, and Viking songs. “By the Sword of My Father” is the second album released by the Folkearth in 2006. It features dozens of musicians, too many to list here. 31 musicians and vocalists to be exact. With that being said, each song is performed by different musicians.

If you respect different cultures and different style of Heavy Metal music in the Folk, Pagan, Black Metal, Death Metal, and Viking Metal, then this may be worth a listen. But, be warned, not all of the music here is strictly Black Metal or Heavy Metal. Some songs are structured after European Folk. It’s more of a collection of music that celebrates the different Folk cultures and traditions, mainly northern Europe and Scandinavia.

The musicianship is hard to gage since so many were used. But, the all of the vocalists are good in their own genres. There is a balance between clean and harsh vocals. It has some big choir style chorus lines. All of the guitarist and other string performers are excellent. Several guitar leads and fills are on this album and they are good. On certain songs, you’ll hear the violin, harp and others string instruments. Other traditional instruments are used from bagpipes to hurdy-gurdy. Drumming and other percussionists are excellent as well.  Musically and song structures, this is a very solid effort and strong album.

Track six is an excellent instrumental that features a classical style harp and acoustic guitar that introduces the listener to what Folk music is about. After that, you get the banging of the drums and tambourine which explodes with the electric guitar solo and bagpipes. Track 15 is another outstanding acoustical piece that includes some damn good vocals.  Track 10 is a cover song originally written and performed by Falkenbach. Folkearth uses this song to pay tribute to mythology of the gods that were once part of Heathen Culture.

Track listing:

“Introduction” — 4:24
“The Lady’s Gift” — 3:48
“By the Sword of My Father” — 5:26
“Naglfar Sets Sail” — 5:18
“The Death of Beowulf” — 6:04
“Instrumental” — 4:24
“Skaldic Art” — 4:04
“Domain of Darksome Ravens” — 5:39
“Returne to Waelhalle” — 4:41
“Heathenpride” — 8:43
“Elves” — 1:29
“Invictus” — 6:08
“Wisdom of Wolves” — 2:50
“Sailing A’Viking” — 2:08
“Tribute to Viking Gods” — 4:04
“Journey Ends (outro)” — 3:23