Balothizer, Cretan Smash review (Louvana Records 2020)

The sophomore album from Balothizer is a heavy fusion of folk music from Crete and sturdy metal influences making the title of the set spot on.

The band is Pav Mav (bass and vocals), Nikos Ziarkas (electric lute), and Steve J. Payne (drums). The band explains that their music for the new album starts with “Cretan folk songs, either for their melodies, historic and regional idioms, potent lyrics, rhythms, patterns or dances” and combines or transforms them into modern metal fusion pieces. This is somewhat different from the approach of their first album in that the new one is heavier, utilizing an electric lute (that’s right) rather than acoustic executions. The result is astonishing.

This music is not like Folk Metal you hear from Scandinavia. It is more in the lane of System of a Down, but Balothizer’s approach is more deeply rooted in the tunes and rhythms of the traditional music they are celebrating. The application of modern instruments and sound does not separate from the roots but it does grow a different branch. The attitude and posture is punk while the reverence for the underlying traditional music is never trampled.

“Jegaman” leaps at you with a fierce speed and relentlessness that grabs your attention immediately. “Peace” emerges slowly with percussion and an echoed voice, then the electric lute kicks in and we are off to a different place. “Aleppo” is the noisiest track, brimming with angular musical leverage and clanking assertions. And then a song like “Anathema” has a quiet beginning, a melancholy feel that evolves over its ten minute path into a bigger, louder call. All of these separate approaches are necessary to complete the full message of the album. The music is very different compared to most other heavy acts – it is a refreshing and welcome listen. Recommended.

Cretan Smash is out now. Check out the available versions at the label link below. Also Bandcamp.

Band photo by Andreas Christophides.

Links.

Band Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Balothizer

Bandcamp, https://balothizer.bandcamp.com/album/cretan-smash

Label, https://www.louvanarecords.com/store#!/Balothizer/

Balothizer, Cretan Smash review (Louvana Records 2020)

Grendel’s Sÿster, Myrtle Wreath / Myrtenkranz review (Cruz Del Sur Music 2020)

The Myrtle Wreath EP from Grendel’s Sÿster gets a well-deserved broad re-release with Cruz Del Sur Music.

Everybody knows that Grendel’s mother was the one to watch out for, but nobody knows what to expect from his sister. That’s how I felt dropping the (virtual) needle on Myrtle Wreath / Myrtenkranz. – I hadn’t heard any of the band’s work before. They are a Folk Metal trio from Germany. This EP came out in 2019 and is getting wider distribution now. They also released an EP in 2018: Orphic Gold Leaves/Orphische Goldblättchen.

The thing about Folk Metal for me is that I have a short list of bands I like. Korpiklaani, Finntroll, Týr, a few others. I am not a deep diver in these waters, so I do not have a learned opinion. I just know whether I like what I hear. I really like Myrtenkranz.

There are seven songs and an intro bit, and they are presented in two versions each – one in English and one in German. I have a strong and abiding preference for the versions in German. No, I don’t speak German. To my ear singing in German simply sounds better with the music. Grendel’s Sÿster does not sound anything like the bands I listed, really. They are very much on the Folk side of Folk Metal. Plainly, it is like listening to folk songs that employ (fuzzy) electric guitars for instruments. The vocals are beautifully melodic and clear. Beyond traditional Folk constructions, many of the songs have the epic and march urgency heard in music from bands like Falconer, but not as loud. Lead guitar expressions are also low key and tastefully executed. This is a great album for when you are not in the mood to have your block knocked completely off. Recommended.

The physicals start shipping September 25, and the digital is available now at Bandcamp and elsewhere. The first EP Orphic Gold Leaves is not on Spotify (last time I looked) and the hardcopies are sold out, but you can still get the English vocal version as a download.

Links.

https://grendelssyster.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/cruzdelsurmusic/

https://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/blog/

https://cruzdelsurmusic.bandcamp.com/

Grendel’s Sÿster, Myrtle Wreath / Myrtenkranz review (Cruz Del Sur Music 2020)

Ensiferum, Thalassic review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Ensiferum celebrates 25 years of music with a new album, Thalassic – a Folk Metal epic tale told in heavy sea shanties.

I read that “Ensiferum” is Latin for something like “sword-bearing,” and that “Thalassic” is Greek for “relating to the seas,” so I do now definitely understand why the band’s music has often been called Viking Metal. Still, the broader Folk Metal label usually gets applied to them, placing the band among the storied list of famous acts like Korpiklaani, Finntroll, Amon Amarth, and stands with recent releases like this year’s Falconer album. It is a big tent, and this manner of metal music has legions of fans. Ensiferum brings out the heavy from every angle in Thalassic, the band’s first actual themed album.

The Helsinki band has been making music for two and a half decades, and has gone through many line-up changes and rearrangements throughout their journey. The current band is Sami Hinkka (bass and vocals), Markus Toivonen (guitar and vocals), Petri Lindroos (guitar and vocals), and Janne Parviainen (drums), with Pekka Montin (clean vocals and keyboards) contributing to the studio recording.

The maritime musical gets started with a sweeping orchestral opener, then dives straight into seafaring metal. “Rum, Women, Victory” is an anthem style radio song that alternates between gruff and clean vocals that ride along the waves of roiling guitars and peppering drums. The pace is fast and urgent, and, you can tell from the title, light hearted. This one is going to be a singalong at live shows for sure. The Greek mythology themes start to emerge with “Andromeda,” which takes a more serious and somber tone, opening the way for the full tale to be told. The production is front stage in this album, with a big full sound, a generous use of keyboards, and many moments of relief that keep the music and story moving along. It is designed to be theatrical and they pull it off well. The concept is fully realized and fans of the band and fantasy metal music are going to love this album.

Thalassic is available now from Metal Bade Records in many forms and functionalities. If you are looking for a big sound and a maritime mythology story to go along with it, Ensiferum has your number.

Links.

http://www.facebook.com/Ensiferum

http://www.ensiferum.com

http://www.metalblade.com/ensiferum

Ensiferum, Thalassic review (Metal Blade Records 2020)