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Music Reviews: As They Sleep, Bison B.C., Battlelore, Falkenbach, Fejd

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Nothing to warm the cockles like some damn good metal for review. This week was no exception. First off let me say a few words about the single from the new band Reason called “Before the Dawn”. It’s not a bad track but the drums are odd sounding (think “St. Anger” odd) and the track is just a bit too long. Shows promise so keep an eye on this band if you like melodic prog.

CD Reviews

As They Sleep: Dynasty

One thing is for sure: this album will not be mistaken for the Kiss album of the same name. This is modern metal with scream-vocals and heavy riffing. That said, with titles like “The Third Reich” you could consider it a tad clichéd at times. There are times it comes across as a combination of Slayer and any myriad of modern metal bands.

There is a touch of sameness to the tracks on here. However they never hang around long enough to get boring. The band hail from Detroit and play technical metal. It’s indeed as it is described, pummeling; however a bit more variety between tracks would be nice. And its not exactly technical as European metal bands would describe it. There is little of what you might call variety of pace and playing. It’s just a constant blast of similar sounds for an entire album. In a word it all comes across as a tad boring.

It’s a good start, but a bit more variety and quality of songwriting would help. What is on offer here is pretty plodding and dull. I am sure they are great live, but on CD it’s a bit less than the sum of its parts. It’s just sad to see talent wasted on such an mediocre release.

Bison B.C.: Dark Ages

This band used to be part of a skate-thrash act that imploded. Out of the implosion rose phoenix-like a band that peddle a rather appealing brand of sub-stoner metal. There are touches of bands like Mastodon that give it nice sense of gravitas. That said it took a few listens before I fully “got it”, but it’s satisfying when you finally do. This CD takes a bit of work to get fully under your skin, but I do recommend you let it.

The sludgy nature of the tracks is combined with some fine vocalising that never gets in the way of a good head-bang. Screamo and more traditional metal vocals combine well in the mix. Everything is in the right proportion to make for a decent release.

The band have the chops and quality to pull off tracks like the epic “Melody, This is for You” without it ever getting plodding in a bad way. Then you have almost party tracks like “Two-Day Booze”, some drink-sodden fun. They may have an odd name but check out this bunch. You can just tell that these guys seriously rock live. This is the perfect antidote to Celine Dion singing Christmas carols at your local mall.

Battlelore: Doombound

This bit of fantasy metal is inspired by Tolkien’s “The Children of Hurin”, which incidentally I just finished reading. In fact it’s mostly based on the hero Túrin’ Turambar and his tragic quest across the lands of Middle Earth. And as one would expect from a band that does fantasy metal, especially a release about Tolkien, there is a wonderful mix of vocal styles. Death growls combine with the sweet vocals of Kaisa Jouhki into something rather special. They do manage to evoke the right tone with this release in keeping with the feeling of the novel.

The band being Finnish, there is an epic and melodic quality to this release. It combines elements of prog, goth power, and symphonic metal in equal proportions to produce a fine mixture in song. While the title track comes in at eight minutes, the rest of the music is of a decent length. There is no hanging around too long, which can happen often on these sort of releases. There is little cheese on here, no over-the-top Meatloaf-esque histrionics. All the elements combine to pay an apt tribute to a great book.

An ambitious effort delivered with quality and talent. Might not be everyone’s cup of metal, but it’s hard to deny this is a rather good album.

Falkenbach: Tiurida

As with the release I review below, I just loved this disc. While not as instant a like as with Fejd, this really got me good. It may be a German band but this is pure Viking metal. The name means “Runnel of the Falcons” and the band is steeped in the sagas of the Vikings. This is atmospheric epic “blackened” folk metal at its absolute best. The mixture of all sorts of instruments and vocal techniques makes this quite a joy to listen to. The clean vocals and choral and acoustic arrangements combine well with the traditional death vocals.

As with any good Viking metal it evokes the sober nature of their epic journeys across the sea. Of course, there are even water sounds to add to the ambiance. There is lighter and melodic fare in the form of tracks like “Time Between Dog & Wolf” with its catchy intro and more lighthearted feel. Granted that is relative to the rest of the album.

This band produce such quality and varying tunes that the fact that all are over five minutes will not bother you one bit. Having never heard of this lot, I am rather pleased it ended up in my in-box. Some great Viking metal for the end of your year.

Fejd: Elfur

This is one of those discs I resisted reviewing for several weeks longer than I should have done. It’s not because I didn’t want to bother, but because I so enjoyed listening to this stuff. The band’s name means “feud” in Swedish, but this stuff makes you want to dance not fight. If “Allas Halling” doesn’t get your toes tapping you have no sense of fun at all.

It’s sung in Swedish, but no matter, you will be singing along in no time. All of it’s just that catchy. This is a band that makes you feel like you want to hang out with them round a camp fire for a bit of a piss-up. It’s catchy as stink and fascinating to listen to. While some might scoff at it and claim it’s a hairy and male version of Blackmore’s Night, it would be foolish to be so dismissive. This is just another example of how original and creative the Scandinavian music scene can be. Yes and that odd sounding thing is a cow antler. Heavy folk never sounded so good or so inspiring.

This is Viking folk music that is hairy-chested while at the same time enticing. You could easily play this to your non-metal-loving mates and they won’t complain a wit. Without a doubt this is one of my favourite albums of the year. So raise a glass of your favourite tipple and sing along with Fejd.

On that jaunty note, have a safe one this week. Stay warm and rocking whereever you might be.

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About Marty Dodge