Gen 31 2009, 11:59
Dic 18 2008, 18:55With no major releases scheduled before the end of the year, it is safe for me to put together my review of the year MMVIII. I will touch briefly on the general listening habits I have had and put together a list of albums, artists and tracks that I enjoyed most during 2008. Finally, there will be a list of the best releases from the year 2008.
In 2008 I have been listening mainly to folk (influenced) metal. From the genre, the artists that I scrobbled most include Equilibrium, Amon Amarth, Lumsk and Heidevolk. More recently I have "discovered" the doom metal genre, mainly dominated by artists such as Ahab, Funeral, Evoken and Isole. Like always there has been a fair amount of power and progressive metal that has been playing in between the happy folk tunes and gloomy doom musings.
Top played artists
Top played albums
Top played tracks
As you might already have noticed from the charts in the above section, I didn't play much from 2008 compared to earlier stuff. It wasn't such a good year, even though there were releases from some major bands such as Amon Amarth, Equilibrium and Eluveitie. And even though Heidevolk's Walhalla Wacht is my most played of the albums that did make the top 15 of most played albums, I have not been playing it on a regular enough basis to crown it as 2008's best. Still, the same is true for the other albums from this year and that doesn't influence my choice for 2008's best album. I want to mention two releases though, and I shall begin with the runner-up for my 2008's best release.
Runner up for 2008's best metal release
It was an album that nobody expected, from a band nobody had heard of (and still many people are in the dark about it) from a place that is not known for its metal scene at all. I present to you Orphaned Land little brother: Amaseffer, who released the debut album Slaves for Life.
Amaseffer - Slaves for Life
Like Orphaned Land, Amaseffer concentrates on Jewish mythology. Slaves for Life is a concept album telling the tale of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt - in the style of progressive metal with added atmospheric and symphonic elements reminiscent resulting in a progressive metal film score sound. The album features songs with diverse emotions, but all passionately delivered by it's musicians and a very impressive vocalist. If you have never heard about this album, this is your cue to check it out now.
2008's best metal release
It doesn't show up in the album charts, but it does in the track charts - thank you very fucking much for your consistency, last.fm.
Equilibrium - Sagas
Since the first time I've heard Equilibrium I have been playing their music over and over again - and with such a big stretch between their debut album and Sagas, Turis Fratyr has been slowly creeping to the top of my most played albums of all time - where it now occupies the number one spot. But then came Sagas, which is basically the same concept as Turis Fratyr but also so much more. Sagas is a masterpiece because it is layered with folk instruments, atmosphere ánd symphonic elements, without drowing its relentlessly raw metal sound. Each song is an up-tempo bashing festival of sound, and the album is topped with an epic fourteen minute instrumental song with so many movements it sounds like an album of its own.
Nov 1 2008, 19:54Fri 31 Oct – Turisas, MyrkvarIt had been a while since my last concert. The last time I saw a non-local metal band was Heidevolk at Dynamo Outdoor Fest, the 31st of August. Before that, it was Sonata Arctica at the Effenaar on June 18th. I didn't write reviews of those gigs, because my writing muse was away. You can understand I was looking forward to a new dose of musical extravaganza, and I was confident Turisas was ready for that task.
Turisas was supported by Myrkvar, a band from the Netherlands that tries very hard to be like the popular Heidevolk, but simply fails at that attempt. The music they play isn't that bad, but it isn't very good either. Some of their tunes are rather catchy and will remind you of typical polka tunes, others are just mediocre. I thought they played a rather long set, something not all the members in the audience appreciated, but I guess they simply wanted to promote their new album, Als een Woeste Horde ("Like a wild horde"). They ended with a cover of the internet phenomenon that is Ievan Polkka by Loituma which I must admit was great. Myrkvar brought some leeks that they threw into the audience which brought an aroma in the small venue that was very different from the usual aroma from other "Dutch vegetables" that used to be smoked before the smoking ban was enforced.
Where to start? Turisas ranks among the biggest folk metal acts currently performing worldwide. Their stage presence is great. I need not remind anyone that Turisas is one of those bands that take their live shows further than only playing songs - they appear on stage dressed in ancient cloth, animal skins, straps and armour, painted in their red and black colours of war. Their music is epic, their appearance is epic, and their live performance is epic - even the light show was excellent! I've seen a lot of bands perform but Turisas is definitely shoving around somewhere in the top. Turisas played Battle Metal, One More, Sahti-Waari, Fields of Gold, In The Court of Jarisleif, Miklagard Overture, To Holmgard and Beyond, The Dnieper Rapids and last but overwhelmingly not least: Rasputin. This is the song they ended with, and the crowd went wild. It was a very good crowd overall, which I think the men and woman from Turisas appreciated a lot. Somewhere halfway their show, master-violinist Olli Vänskä went solo. Instead of just showing off his mad skillz, a voice-over narrator told a story about the mythology of all the instruments, and how they were created equally and his this cosmic equilibrium should be maintained for all time. But there was one instrument that thought it was better than all the rest, and soon the world was infested with these guitar heroes. A new champion has risen to reinstate the balance: fuck the guitar solo. During this entertaining narration, Olli demonstrated his art. In short: It was fucking brilliant. One more thing though, next time Turisas plays in the Netherlands, somebody should bring some bottles of Hertog Jan.
Myrkvar's Loituma cover: "Trollen met prei"
Turisas' Boney M cover: Rasputin
Lug 15 2008, 18:13We are halfway through the year, and there have not been very many folk or pagan releases. The only ones that hit the (near-)perfection mark were Heidevolk's Walhalla Wacht ("Valhalla awaits") and Equilibrium's Sagas, the former being a fierce, bombastic piece of work from my fellow countrymen and the latter being a pure masterpiece by my German neighbours. Who would have thought pan flutes would be part of the metal ensemble? There was also the long awaited Slania by Eluveitie, Iivakivi by Metsatöll and Tulimyrsky by Moonsorrow, which were also very good. And there is still hope! Artists that I respect are working on new albums that continue to carry the pagan flag into musical, cacophonous battle.
One of those bands is Ásmegin, who surprised the folk metal community with their first album Hin vordende sod & Sø. They will be releasing a new album called Tusind tabte Sjæles Kakofoni. Unfortunately there is not much known about this release; no artwork has been released, nor a tracklist, nor a release date. It may be scheduled for after 2008, but I keep my hopes up.
Amon Amarth who have established their name quite well within the ranks of musical pagans are marching on as ever. It doesn't seem that long ago since their last release, With Oden on Our Side, but I was shocked to find out it had been two years. Sailing home in their longships after much touring they immediately went on raid to find a studio and record a new album they have called Twilight of the Thundergod. No tracklist has been released, but there have been mentions of the names of three songs. Live For The Kill, Guardians of Asgaard and Tattered Banners and Bloody Flags. It those titles don't make your heart pump with eagerness, I don't know what will.
Eluveitie who I've mentioned in the introduction are working on two full-length non-metal folk albums, both called Evocation. The one that will be released this year in December carries the subtitle The Arcane Dominion, and I am looking forward to hearing an album without the usual guitar screaming and drum bashing metal brings into play.
And then there is Månegarm, a band whose sound I think has been evolving and getting better with each release. They have been cooking up yet another album that I hope will surpass 2007's Vargstenen, which is still fresh in our minds. The new one will be called Nattväsen. If the idea of a metal band producing an akoestic folk-inspired album appeal to you, you must definitely check out Månegarm's 2006 album Urminnes Hävd: The Forest Sessions.
NeverEnding Way of ORwarriOR is the name coined for the new Orphaned Land album, and it has been known for years. Orphaned Land take their time for albums. However, remembering the extremely popular Mabool from 2004, we know that it will be worth the wait. This band is the only one in this list not from Scandinavia - and that promises the use of instruments that are unheard of even in "ordinary" folk metal. Release dates have been guessed somewhere in December.
Thyrfing is another great band in this genre that is coming with a new album. It is the last in this article. For this album there is a release date: October the 22nd. Unfortunately, that is all that is known. No tracks, no artwork, not even a name. We can only wait and see!
Giu 27 2008, 19:40Ever since the turn of the millennium, folk metal bands have become increasingly popular. The genre was pioneered in the early ninetees by bands like Skyclad and Cruachan. You've probably also been bombarded with the fact who started the now very popular viking theme... Yes, that dead guy. The two terms often seem interchangable, although I contest that the "folk" prefix describes the type of music (traditional instruments added to the usual metal gear), and the "viking" prefix a description of the lyrical content. There is some disagreement whether folk metal actually requires band to use traditional instruments.
Ensiferum is a good example of a band that is often tagged as folk/viking metal, but on the folk front only rarely makes use of traditional instruments (on record, never live). Their use of chanting, folk ("happy") melodies and keyboard seems to be sufficient for them to be regarded as folk. As for the viking part, they almost never use the this theme - which is not very surprising, because Ensiferum are Finnish. Therefore, they are not vikings. The Finnish had their own mythology (e.g. Ahti is a Finnish god of the sea and has nothing to do with the viking, Norse mythology) and culture. Again, allowances are made because of the "battle" theme that Ensiferum often uses.
Sidetracking I want to say it isn't my intention to get everyone to change their tags to something that is more fitting, because it will only create more genres and I think we've got quite enough already. Bands and fans alike are more and more inclined to come up with new prefixes to describe a "new and unique sound". I'm just saying that the folk and viking definition seems quite broad if you look at bands in detail. Also, the use of the "pagan" tag seems to apply to all bands that have the same kind of musical ideology as viking metal bands, but lyrically are of another pagan origin (so what's so special about the pagan vikings?). It's all a bit confusing, but I'll get back to the main article.
However you want to call it, I think these kinds of bands are great. Especially the bands that deal with pagan lore or history in their lyrics (such as my fellow countrymen Heidevolk) do a great thing of celebrating and remembering the rich cultural history that often gets lost among the "more important" themes of school's history books. Who isn't interested in what their ancestors believed in, who their gods were and what awesome myths and legends were told in the days of darkness and bitter cold? I certainly am fascinated by it. Not only in my own germanic roots, but also old norse (Amon Amarth), celtic (Mael Mórdha) and slavic (Arkona) culture. I also love the use of traditional instruments that are also forgotten in the modern day.
So what of the future of folk and pagan metal? I hope to see more bands around the world embrace this concept and tell the world through their music about their ancestors. There are already some folk bands using eastern instruments - often called "oriental metal". Orphaned Land is one of those bands that surprised the whole world and instantly became extremely popular with their Mabool album. Their use of oriental instruments gave their music a unique signature, and I hope more bands will do likewise. With the global spreading of metal, I hope to see even further eastern bands such as Japanese and Chinese incorporate their traditional insturments and/or historical religions, legends and myths. But there are more interesting cultures out there - the ancient egyptians, the precolonial sub-saharan african culture, the Aztecs and Incas...
Truly I say: The folk and pagan genre, even though flourishing already, can become so much more diverse and awesome. If only musicians living outside Europe, metal's cradle, would realise... :-)
Giu 25 2008, 20:03Also read on Waldheri.comIt’s the 25th of June, two days before the actual release of this album, but I got it in the mail anyway. I guess I got lucky by not ordering it from the this Nuclear Blast's mailorder, because you can be quite sure you won’t get the album before the release with them. Other mailorder services usually get the albums before the release date so they can make sure their clients get the album on the exact date of release, but somehow my order slipped through checks or something. I ordered the CD+DVD because I’m in no need fancy boxes, patches or certificates which signify nothing to me. This version of the album is paper/cardboard cased and can be unfolded to reveal a 10-paged booklet. The booklet is nicely stylized, but the dark brown background, hand written black font and stylish ink blobs make it hard to read the lyrics and other texts - especially when parts of “manuscripts” are overlapping. That’s a shame, but I won’t substract points because the music is pretty much the only thing that really matters.
Rating: 5/5The sticker on the cellophane announced the music as “symphonic pagan metal” and I guess that’s quite right. The music on this album can in some parts definately be compared to movie scores, but it is also definately metal in the style of Turis Fratyr. The “pagan” part is something I’m not sure about because it describes lyrical content and I’m not too much under the impression Equilibrium is one of those “hail Odin” bands. In any case, Equilibrium definately has gone a step forward with this recording when you compare it with their popular debut album that has sold out of copies. Turis Fratyr was pretty straight-forward and comparatively “simple” in terms of composition. In Sagas you can hear some orchestrations and traditional folk instruments, but Equilibrium has managed to weave it together in such a way that these additions aren’t overly present, maintaining the raw metal we so loved in Turis Fratyr.
The CD starts off with a nice film score-esque prelude (Prolog auf Erden) which flows nicely into the next song, Wurzelbert, in which the real deal is kicked off. Soon we find ourselves in fast-paced folk-ish metal that in parts sounds a lot like Finsterforst. Keyboard orchestrations are weaved into the melody and the mood is set for the album: Fast-paced metal laced with tasty additions. The song is about a man living in the mountains who, at dawn, will play the violin for the birds. It’s quite a romantic concpet you wouldn’t immediately suspect after hearing the song itself. The next song is Blut Im Auge, of which we’ve all heard demo versions of. It’s changed a bit; it has more elements added to it, but it’s basically the same. Unbesiegt’s intro is somewhat similar to the bonus song from the previous album, Shingo Murata but it gets right back to kicking ass, singing about fighting for freedom unconquered and wills unbent. Verrat translated is “betrayal” and in conjunction with the nature of this act the song is really agressive, loud and angry. This kind of music continues with Snüffel and Heimwärts untill the album slows down with Heidenrauche, the second of three instrumental songs, also in film score style. Then we get on with Die Weide unt der Fluß (seemingly a tribute to nature, but again I can’t make out the lyrics from the booklet), the first metal song that isn’t constantly fast. It has some nice hymns and builds up pretty nicely, using orchestrations. This song is one I’d not shy away from from calling epic! Des Sängers Fluch is another easy going song, startinf off with some accoustics, but getting back to the usual instruments pretty quickly. This song breaks down in the middle, getting back to softer melodies, but reinitiates the fanatic fervor till the end. The next songs, Ruf in den Wind and Dämmerung continue in the same vein, but Dämmerung sounds like it’s making an end to the album. But there’s one song left; the last instrumental one, the most epic one, a song that takes you a ride on a musical river with slow and fast streams, rain, sunny weather, and anything your imagination can come up with. Mana has it all, and ends the album with beautiful flutes.
Yes, you should buy this album.
Mag 11 2008, 17:39Yesterday a friend showed me first two videos of the following video series. The first is Sahti-Waari from Turisas, the second is Lai Lai Hei by Ensiferum. I added the LEGO video for Krijgsvolk from Heidevolk. We end with a lounge version of Cannibal Corpse's Rancid Amputation
Lai Lai Hei
Rancid Amputation (Lounge version)
Apr 28 2008, 12:59Sun 27 Apr – Hollenthon, Heidevolk, Conorach
Conorach was the first band to play this evening. They claim to be folk metal, but to me they sounded a whole lot more like power metal. No matter; I liked their music. They could work on their stage presence: Only the vocalist seemed to be busy with more than their own instrument in the band. I liked the songs from the upcoming album a lot better than the older songs they played, so there are good hopes for this band. Conorach also made some friends in the audience by pouring beer in their mouths from a small wooden barrel. ;D
Heidevolk seemed to be the band most people came to see; The enthusiasm and activity of the crowd was highest when Heidevolk played. As could be expected, they played a lot of songs from their new album called Walhalla Wacht. They played Saksenland, Walhalla Wacht, Hulde Aan de Kastelein, Opstand Der Bataven, Zwaarden Geheven but also some older songs like Wodan Heerst, Vulgaris Magistralis, Het Gelders Volkslied and Krijgsvolk. Heidevolk are great musicians, but they are more than that; they are entertainers. Dressed in their tunics, with their shields and drinking horns, they know how to get a crowd to play along and sing, scream, dance and jump like maniacs. It was great fun, and a shame they weren't the main act.
I pitied Hollenthon, because a lot of the crowd simply came to see Heidevolk, and I heard from lots of people they never even heard of Hollenthon. I own both their albums and was excited to see them live. They did not disappoint me; they are marvellous musicians. They played lots of songs from the With Vilest Worms To Dwell album, but also from their first and upcoming album. They played songs like Premonition - Lex Talionis, Y Draig Goch, Woe To The Defeated, Lords Of Bedlam, To Kingdom Come, Fire Upon The Blade and from the upcoming album Son Of Perdition(See Video), On The Wings Of A Dove and Ars Moriendi. At the end, when they played an extra song, the venue was almost empty. Poor Hollenthon; I guess they did not expect a "local" band like Heidevolk to have such a following (well, only if you count The Netherlands as "local").
Apr 4 2008, 15:02Concert Review: PaganFest
Thu 3 Apr – PaganFest
PaganFest has finally arrived! After buying the ticket many months before, the wait was long, but the caravan of heathen bards and skalds has started their campaign to conquer the once pagan soil with their music. Yesterday, the battle was in the Dutch city of Tilburg.
Line-up: Deviance, Eluveitie, Moonsorrow, Korpiklaani and Ensiferum.
Every band had a nice backdrop, except for Týr who used the standard PaganFest backdrop. Ensiferum also had some banners displaying a viking and a drakkar, and also a shield with swords. It is a great time of year - PaganFest is scheduled just after releases of great folk/viking bands such as Heidevolk (Walhalla Wacht), Eluveitie (Slania), Metsatöll (Iivakivi) and before the upcoming releases of Moonsorrow (Tulimyrsky) and Týr (Land).
The local support band deviance, who for some reason won the voting contest. They started their set quite early; as soon as people entered the venue. They played melodic death metal of some sort, which doesn't really interest me. A minor bonus was the fact that their vocalist was a female, who did was able to squeeze out some good grunts and screams.
I saw Eluveitie before in the cellar of the Dynamo venue in Eindhoven (read review here), when they were being supported by Kromlek and Elexorien, two other very entertaining bands you should check out of you haven't already. Eluveitie is one of the most interesting bands around, because of their use of original folk instruments such as the hurdy-gurdy, flutes, bagpipes, mandolin, et cetera. These instruments and the kilts, bare torsos adorned with tattoos, beards and bare feet make Eluveitie simply wonderful to see perform live. They started out with their (apparently) new favourite Inis Mona, a cover song of an older tune called Tri Martolod by Alan Stivell. They played some more songs from their new album such as Bloodstained Ground, Gray Archon Sublime, but also some Spirit songs such as Your Gaulish War and Of Fire, Wind & Wisdom. Great set, too bad they played only half an hour!
I saw Týr before when they were supporting Amon Amarth in the Bosuil venue in Weert (read review here). I like them a lot; they are one of the few bands in the viking metal spectrum that use clean vocals. Their music is also a bit progressive, which is a good thing to me. They played some new songs that will be on their upcoming album Land, but I didn't like them a lot, to be honest. Their set list was weak; the only song they played that I really like was Hail To The Hammer. It's a shame they didn't play songs like The Edge, The Wild Rover or Regin Smiður. It could have been lots better!
Now we're talking! As well as the previous two bands, I saw Moonsorrow before as well. They kind of forgot they had played in the Netherlands before, because their vocalist and bassist said this was their first time. No matter! Moonsorrow is one of those bands you can't miss live. They gave an awesome performance, playing epic songs like Jotunheim and Kylan Pääsää. My Finnish isn't that well and a lot of their songs are so lengthy their diversity makes it hard to track what song it was they played.
Unfortunately I forgot what other songs they played- According to commenters: Köyliönjärven Jäällä (Pakanavedet II), Raunioilla and Taistelu Pohjolasta. I do have a point of criticism; I thought their bass drum was a bit too loud - keyboards and guitars kind of drowned in the thunderous pounding of double-bassed sections. In any case: It was fucking brilliant!
Korpiklaani ("Forest Clan") is one of the big attractors of visitors to this fest. They also make use of a lot of folk instruments, and their often funny songs are largely inspired by beer. However, personally I'm not really moved by their music, and I almost never listen to their stuff, which is why have no idea which songs they've played - I do remember "Happy Little Boozer". The crowd went kind of nuts on Korpiklaani, jumping and dancing and generally making a mess by throwing around beer. It was all good fun, but musically it didn't really get to me.
I'd never seen Ensiferum before, even though I've been listening to their stuff since I heard their demo song Näitä Polkuja Tallaan. At PaganFest, I found out they're about the best band I've seen live - taking my former favourite's (Amon Amarth) first place. Really, wow. They played an awesome set (but hell, they don't have any bad songs anyway); songs from every album. From Treacherous Gods to Victory Songs, from Token of Time to Lai Lai Hei. They also played Blood Is The Price Of Glory, Ahti, One More Magic Potion and Battle Song. What talented musicianship, what an awesome performance - all in kilt, I might add. I have no more words, they were awesome.
Conclusion: Ensiferum > Moonsorrow > Eluveitie > Korpiklaani > Týr > Deviance.
Feb 1 2008, 20:43I got my subscription status a few days ago, but I only write about it now because I have been ill the last couple of days. Now that I'm improving, I thought it was the good time to tell you all why I became a subscriber.
I've been enjoying this website since August 2005. At first I didn't do much with my account, other than occasionally having a glance at what kind of music I had been listening to the most. More recently, I've discovered the huge community that drives last.fm to its success. Last.fm has not only helped me discover more music and cranked up my respect for musicians (sparking me to start a CD collection, visit more concerts, et cetera), it has also provided me a solid base for interaction with people all over the world.
Although unrelated to music*, I have discovered the "special" groups on last.fm that have allowed me to grow intellectually. Groups that are rooted in philosophical viewpoints, political convictions and other subjects that allow for discussions with vigor and eventual merit. One of the main groups that provided me with such sports was The Antichristian Phenomenon. It sounds like a really bad trolling group, but it's active members are quite intelligent and interesting people who have lead me to interesting insights and other information I would otherwise have overlooked.
So to reward last.fm with their excellent and ever-improving service which I am more and more actively enjoyed, I decided to sign up and get a subscription. The blue user icon is worth it.