Tag Archives: Folk Metal

Skyclad – A Burnt Offering For The Bone Idol (Review)

Skyclad – A Burnt Offering For The Bone Idol (1992)

A Burnt Offering For The Bone Idol is a grand medieval banquet full of succulent folk, juicy classic metal and meaty thrash. Skyclad’s 1992 album was a truly original and pioneering work that built on their debut album’s idiosyncratic promise. The addition of a full-time violinist Fritha Jenkins adds class and colour to a rich and varied set of pagan metal all graced by the gifted lyrics and charismatic vocals of Martin Walkyier. The lusty jig Spinning Jenny and the fist-pumping The Declaration Of Indifference are the enduring set-list faves but every track here is special. The mix of traditional metal mastery à la Maiden and Manowar coupled with the rage and darkness of the underground made this the album to beat in a year when proper epic metal seemed to be in short-supply. From the dystopian anger of Broken Promised Land to the historical tragedy of R’Vannith and the mellow moon-lit ley lines of Ring Stone Round, A Burnt Offering… is a treasure from start to finish.

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

Solstice – White Horse Hill (Review)

Solstice – White Horse Hill (2018)

Unless your veins run with the blood of a coward you would do well to check out White Horse Hill, the 2018 comeback album from the UK’s Solstice. And fans of early Manowar and Candlemass should consider it essential. It’s confident, bracing stuff with riffs that power like mighty oars, harmonies that sound like they’re heading out on a quest and declamatory vocals that get the pecs swelling with pride. The folky strum of For All Days & For None is a mid-album lull and a penchant for rustic interludes hampers the pacing a touch but To Sol A Thane, Under The Waves Lie Our Dead and the title-track are glorious, bearing the weight of the album like mighty pillars.

HMO Rating: 4 Out Of 5

Extra points for a beautiful digipak!

Skyclad – The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth (Review)

Skyclad – The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth (1991)

The departure of Martin Walkyier from superb UK thrashers Sabbat was a major disappointment but the talented frontman wasted no time, forming a new band Skyclad with members of Satan and Pariah. Their 1991 debut album The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth had plenty of the Ye Olde thrash Martin was known for but innovated with its incorporation of folk elements. And lo, a new genre – folk metal – started right here.

Martin delivers his caustic rants on social justice and ecological doom with raging charisma, backed by Steve Ramsey’s powerful and deft guitar work. There are huge thrash hooks in songs like The Cradle Will Fall (I am human!) and gothic closer Terminus but the band’s dark, dense Euro thrash does get fatiguing at times and the album is at its creative best during its folkier moments. The Widdershins Jig is a jaunty highlight (with a riff surely inspired by children’s TV show The Riddlers), Moongleam and Meadowsweet is beautifully lush (with gorgeous guest guitar from Sting’s Dominic Miller) and dramatic bursts of violin liven up thrashers like Sky Beneath My Feet and Our Dying Island.

The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth’s combination of labyrinthine thrash and pagan textures has proved remarkably durable over the years. More notable and eclectic offerings were to come, as Skyclad followed their prolific, fiddle-mad muse to become one of the most unique and influential British metal bands of the 90s. But the debut has a uniquely apocalyptic appeal that still makes it a go-to in the band’s impressive discography. Not a perfect debut but an attention-grabbing and adventurous one.

HMO Rating: 4 out of 5

[Skyclad – The Widdershins Jig]

Formicarius – Black Mass Ritual (Review)

The last time I encountered the UK’s Formicarius was back in December when they contributed a track Lake of the Dead to the excellent compilation Speed Kills VII. Back then I called them “very promising” and I’m glad to report that, with Black Mass Ritual, they have delivered on that promise and then some.

Formicarius go medievil on your ass with their debut album, dishing out Cradle of Filth-style symphonic metal with power metal exuberance. The whirling atmosphere, rib-cracking riffs and exotic solos sound like Mustaine and Friedman jamming with Emperor, the potent speed metal velocity, galloping bass and catchy choruses bring to mind early Helloween and there’s a folky bent to the riffs and instrumentation that reminds me of the classic Skyclad albums.

All the performances are outstanding, from Lord Saunders’ articulate Abbath-esque croak to Morath’s grand and eloquent keyboard embellishments and solos (check out the excellent outro piano on Overlord, a standout moment). The songwriting is also uniformly excellent. An overly jaunty riff in Abhorrent Feast of Minds is the only thing close to a mis-step and it’s soon forgiven as Master of Past and Present closes the album on a dark, dramatic high.

It’s a fantastic debut: rampaging, grand black metal with a healthy dose of epic tradition and fearless creativity. In a year where I’ve been mainly knocked out by death metal albums, Formicarius have struck a decisive blow for black metal. And they’ve done it with an album that is all kinds of metal fun for all kinds of metal fans. The Black Mass Ritual begins on July 21st, don’t miss out.

HMO Rating: 4 out of 5

Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen: Live (Song Review)

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Here’s a rousing track from Primordial’s new live album Gods to the Godless (Live at Bang Your Head Festival Germany 2015). I always feel like live shows are defined by the inclusion of new tracks. My memories of live performances usually revolve around the new songs that were played. For better or worse, bands seem to put extra welly into the new stuff: meaning that brilliant new songs make for an unforgettable show but weak ones will likely mar my recollections, no matter how classics-laden the show might have been. The former is definitely the case with Primordial. Four of the eleven songs here are taken from their last album Where Greater Men Have Fallen and here’s an amazing version of the title track: a burly and martial take that surpasses the studio version. Alan Nemtheanga proves himself, once again, the consummate metal frontman, and the band’s chemistry and the skill of their arrangements are even more evident in the live setting: every instrument occupying a unique space to create a massive wall of sound. Primordial, over twenty years into their career, sound like they’re determined to remain impassioned and vital until the bitter end.

HMO Rating: 5 Out Of 5

[To hear the Song of the Week, click track three on the YouTube screen below. And then listen to the whole thing, you won’t regret it]

 

In the Woods… – HEart of the Ages (Review)

A Black MEtal CLassic!
A Black MEtal CLassic!

I wish I’d heard HEart of the Ages when it was released. Mixing extreme metal with prog and folk hardly seems all that audacious now but when In the Woods…’ debut album came out in 1995 this was a leap forward for black metal. There were similar attempts from Ulver and Primordial in the same year but, even compared to those great albums, HEart of the Ages sounds more forward-thinking and groundbreaking. 21 years later their style might not seem as startling but the music still has a fresh zing of originality and there’s plenty to love in its combination of Burzumic shrieking, melancholic doom, heathen folk and Floyd/Crimson soundscapes. Latecomers should buy the recent Heart of the Woods box set for a particularly plush version of the album. The Norwegians are also due to return later in 2016 with their reunion album Pure. If like me, you’ve missed out on In the Woods…, now is a great time to get involved.

HMO Rating: 4 out of 5

[In the Woods… – HEart of the Ages]

Plush box set from Debemur Morti Productions
Plush box set from Debemur Morti Productions

Ulver – Bergtatt [Et Eeventyr i 5 Capitler]

Warning: Trolls
Warning: Trolls

Bergtatt, the title of Ulver’s 1995 debut, doesn’t seem to have an exact translation to English. In the album’s liner notes it’s translated as both “Spellbound” and “Mountain-taken” which is the literal translation*. It’s a Norwegian term for people (usually maidens I imagine) that have been lured into the hills by particularly alluring trolls and other assorted faerie folk, never to return! The music is appropriately seductive, alluring and magical: the album is laden with dreamy acoustic guitars, flutes and soothing Gregorian chant singing. There’s excellent, raw black metal throughout as well but, even then, the orchestrated layers of guitar don’t shatter the dreamy allure: Ulver aiming for a panoramic, classical vibe rather than the usual evil aggression. It’s a debut so fully realised that the band immediately moved on from the style but Bergtatt has proven to be inescapably influential. In 1995 this was a unique album but so many bands have followed in its dreamy, progressive footsteps since that, if it was released today, it would be more relevant than ever. It’s ageless rock n troll.

*In English the full album title is Mountain-taken: A Fairy Tale in 5 Chapters

[Ulver – Capitel I: I Troldskog Faren Vild or Chapter I : Lost in a Forest of Trolls]

A Troll: Alluring and Seductive
A Troll: Alluring and Seductive